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Applications of Non-Ionic Surfactants - Fatty Amine Ethoxylates, Fatty Alcohol Ethoxylates, Nonyl Phenol Ethoxylates

These are surface active agents that do not form ions when in aqueous solutions. They differ from the cationic and anionic surfactants that have positive and negative charges respectively in their aqueous solutions. The molecule comprise of polymerized alkene oxide consisting of 10 to 100 units. The molecule is formed by polymerizing butylene oxide, ethylene oxide and propylene oxide. Their chemical behavior depends on the number of carbon atoms in the molecule.

They are used to form complex mixtures with others because they do not ionize.  They can be applied in salinity conditions and in hard water because they are less sensitive to electrolytes. They can be found combined with numerous industrial and domestic products. The various common types of commercial non-ionic surfactants include the fatty acid esters, ethoxylated linear alcohols and alkylphenols, and amine and amide derivatives, among others.

Application of Non-Ionic Surfactants

Due to their excellent solvency properties, they can be applied in cleaning as detergents. They also fit in these applications because of their chemical stability and low foaming properties. This is in comparison with the anionic surfactants that are insoluble in hard water and the poor cleaner cationic surfactants.

Non-ionic surfactants have mild effects on the skin even when the skin is exposed to them on a long term. They can be applied in the cleaning industry as a wetting agent and as an emulsifier in other fields. However, the application depends on the order and ratio of oxide addition. It can also be dictated upon by the number of carbon atoms in the molecule. Non-ionic surfactants include nonyl phenols, fatty acid ethoxylate, fatty alcohol ethoxylates and fatty amine ethoxylates.

Other applications of non-ionic surfactant products include in the textile industry in the fabric finishing and washing processes. They can also be applied in industrial cleaning and as detergents. They are also applied in the paper industry in paper de-inking. They are used as agrochemical emulsifiers. Non-ionic surfactants are also used in the metal working industry, plastic industry, cosmetic and pharmaceuticals. They can be applied in dust control, in lube oil, as drilling products and in the adhesive industry.

Fatty alcohol ethoxylates have a hydrophilic polar head and hydrophobic tail and are used for household and industrial scouring such as soaping off, and lubricating. Fatty alcohol ethoxylates are also used in textile dyeing and finishing and as wetting agents and dye assistants.

Like fatty alcohol ethoxylate, fatty acid ethoxylates can be used in textile processing applications such as emulsification and dispersion. Fatty alcohol ethoxylate are also used in agriculture to prepare toxicant emulsions used to control insects. In paper industry, fatty alcohol ethoxylate as rewetting agents are applied to improve absorbency of wet-strength paper.

Fatty amine ethoxylates have wetting properties and can be used as stabilizers and emulsifiers. This makes it possible to be applied in textile, paper, and agricultural industries. Fatty amine ethoxylates have been applied as metal and industrial cleaners, drilling products and detergents. Fatty amine ethoxylates are also applied as sanitizers and deforming agents.

Hydrogenated castor oil is formed by a chemical combination between hydrogen and castor oil. It is applied in cosmetics as a thickener, moisturizer, and can be incorporated in lotions and facial creams. It is also used in automotive and aviation industry as a lubricant and as a coating agent. 

Nonyl phenol (NP) is used to manufacture the nonyl phenol ethoxylates (NPEs), which are used as dust-control agents and deicers. Nonyl phenol ethoxylates can also be applied as laundry detergents, fire fighting gels and foams.

This article has been written by Govindbhai Mathurdas Patel