What Is Paraffin and What Are Its Uses?

Paraffin, also known as liquid paraffin, paraffin oil or kerosene, is a combustible hydrocarbon liquid that is burned as a fuel. It is a mixture of different types of simple hydrocarbons, it is less volatile than gasoline and it boils at 302-527 degrees Fahrenheit. Paraffin can be extracted from coal, wood and oil shale, but it is primarily obtained from the distillation of petroleum, which was first distilled in 1807 by geologist Abraham Gesner. The cost of producing paraffin was high, however, when new sources of paraffin and cheaper methods of refining were later discovered, it lead to lower prices of the fuel. Paraffin, when found in solid form, is called paraffin wax, while the liquid form is referred to as paraffin oil. Liquid paraffin oil is a mineral oil that comes in two forms, either heavy liquid paraffin oil or light liquid paraffin oil. Paraffin is clean burning and maintains a high heat output.

Paraffin Uses

Paraffin is a alkane hydrocarbon that has a variety of practical uses in industries such as medicine, agriculture and cosmetics. Paraffin is widely used as fuel for jet engines and rockets and as fuel or a fuel component for diesel and tractor engines. In centuries past, before electricity was invented, paraffin was used in lamps and lanterns as the main source of lighting. Today, paraffin is the most widely used heating oil in home central heating systems in the UK and it is still used in less developed countries as the main fuel for cooking. Paraffin is also used as a fuel in portable stoves during outdoor activities and mountaineering. Liquid paraffin can be used as a lubricant for machinery. Lubricants can help to extend the life of expensive machinery and equipment by reducing friction, binding and wear. Paraffin can also be used as a coolant for electrical systems, as hydraulic fluid and as a solvent for greases and insecticides. Liquid paraffin also has medicinal properties. It is commonly used to treat dry skin, constipation, and eczema. Paraffin wax is also used as a water-harvesting soil treatment to supply runoff water to dry areas, as an adhesive and as a water-proofing agent.