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Triethanolamine: The Mystery of the Additive of Choice


In the grand hall of chemistry, every molecule has its own unique language and mission, and triethanolamine, a seemingly simple compound, has woven a colorful picture in many industrial applications with its extraordinary adaptability and versatility. As the “Swiss Army Knife” of the chemical industry, triethanolamine has surpassed the boundaries of traditional amine compounds. It not only silently protects the health of the skin in the formulation of personal care products, but also plays a vital role in cutting-edge technology fields such as industrial cleaning, paints and coatings, and even petroleum refining.

From bottles and jars in the laboratory to busy production lines, triethanolamine has won the reputation of “the first choice of additives” for its excellent chemical reactivity, pH adjustment ability and efficient emulsification performance

In the vast starry sky of science, triethanolamine, whose chemical name is N,N-dihydroxyethylethylamine, is like a bright star, illuminating the intersection of chemistry and industry with its unique structure and properties. This section will unveil the mystery of triethanolamine, starting from the basic concepts, and gradually deepening into its molecular structure, physical and chemical properties and its synthesis methods, laying a solid foundation for subsequent application exploration.

Triethanolamine, with the molecular formula C6H15NO3, is named after the three hydrogen atoms in an ethylamine molecule are replaced by ethanol groups (-CH2CH2OH). This structure gives it both the alkalinity and nucleophilicity of the amine group and the hydrophilicity and solvent properties of the alcohol group, forming a highly soluble compound with multiple functional groups in water. This unique structure enables it to play the dual role of a bridge and a catalyst in a variety of chemical reactions.

Wide Application of Triethanolamine in Industrial Fields

In the daily chemical industry, triethanolamine has become an important component in product formulas such as emollient creams, shampoos, and shower gels due to its mild properties. The amine soap produced by its reaction with fatty acids not only enhances the emollient properties of the product, but also improves comfort during use. In makeup products such as mascara, the saponification reaction involving triethanolamine can produce a matrix that is fine-textured, easy to apply, and gentle to the skin, while ensuring the stability and durability of the product. In addition, as a neutralizer for acidic polymer gels such as carbomer, triethanolamine adjusts the pH value in skin care gels to achieve thickening and moisturizing effects.

In the field of building materials, triethanolamine, as part of the composite early strength agent, significantly improves the early strength, impermeability and compactness of concrete. Although the effect of using it alone is limited, when combined with other chemical additives, triethanolamine can effectively promote the cement hydration reaction and accelerate the hardening process, which is of great significance for shortening the construction period and improving the quality of the project. Especially in cold or emergency construction conditions, its application is indispensable.

In the field of metal processing and maintenance, triethanolamine is widely used in metal cleaning agents due to its excellent emulsifying properties and low corrosiveness. It can effectively remove grease and dirt on the metal surface, while protecting the metal from corrosion, ensuring that the treated metal surface is clean and bright, providing ideal preparation conditions for subsequent painting, welding and other processes. In addition, its application in rust inhibitors and corrosion inhibitors further expands its functions in the field of metal protection.

In household and industrial cleaning products, triethanolamine enhances the ability to remove grease and protein dirt by increasing the alkalinity of detergents. It is especially suitable for removing stubborn oil stains on clothes and heavy dirt on kitchen equipment. It also improves the solubility, thickening effect and foam stability of detergents, making the cleaning process more efficient and environmentally friendly.

Prominent Uses of Triethanolamine in Cosmetics

pH adjustment and stabilizer: triethanolamine, as a neutralizer, can accurately adjust the pH value of cosmetics to make it close to the natural pH range of the skin (about 5.5), reduce irritation to the skin, and improve the stability of the formula to ensure the performance consistency of the product under different environments.

Emulsification: In cosmetics such as creams and lotions, triethanolamine can react with fatty acids or fatty alcohols to form a stable emulsification system, so that the water and oil phases are evenly mixed, and the product presents a delicate, bright texture, easy to apply and comfortable.

Thickening and moisturizing: In formulas containing acidic polymer gels such as carbomer, triethanolamine reacts with the carboxyl groups of these gels to form a cross-linked polymer structure, thereby achieving a thickening effect and enhancing the moisturizing properties of the product, giving the skin a soft and moisturizing feeling.

Film formation and durability: In cosmetics such as lipsticks and nail polishes, triethanolamine can form a thin and transparent film to improve the adhesion and durability of the color while providing a sense of gloss.

Cleansing and Decontamination: In cleansing products and makeup removers, triethanolamine helps emulsify oils and easily removes dirt and cosmetic residues on the skin surface and in the pores, while maintaining the skin’s natural moisture balance.

Enhanced formula compatibility: triethanolamine is compatible with a variety of cosmetic raw materials, increasing the flexibility of the formula, allowing added ingredients such as active ingredients to be more stably integrated into the product and improving the overall efficacy.

Prominent Uses of Triethanolamine in Detergents and Cleaners

Improve alkalinity and detergency: Triethanolamine can effectively increase the alkalinity of detergents, which helps to break down and remove grease, protein and other dirt on clothes or hard surfaces, especially for non-polar sebum that is difficult to clean. Significantly. The increase in alkalinity makes the chemical reaction during the washing process more thorough and the decontamination efficiency higher.

Emulsification and dispersion: As an efficient emulsifier, triethanolamine can emulsify and disperse oily dirt in water, preventing stains from redepositing on cleaned items and ensuring that the surface of cleaned items is smooth and traceless. This feature is particularly effective in dealing with kitchen oil stains and oil stains on mechanical parts.

Thickening and foam stabilization: In liquid detergents, triethanolamine can increase the viscosity of the system through interaction with certain surfactants, giving the product better fluidity and foam stability, and providing users with better vision. and user experience. Stable foam helps the cleaner stay on the surface longer, enhancing cleaning effectiveness.

Formula stabilizer: In complex water-based detergent formulas, triethanolamine can stabilize various additives to prevent them from failure or delamination due to hydrolysis or other chemical reactions, ensuring the physical and chemical stability of the product during storage. Extend shelf life.

Anti-rust and protective effect: Among metal cleaning agents, triethanolamine can not only effectively remove dirt on the metal surface, but also form a protective film on the metal surface to prevent metal corrosion during the cleaning process, which is important for precision machinery and sensitive metal parts. Cleaning is particularly important.

Environmental protection and biodegradability: Compared with some traditional chemical detergent ingredients, triethanolamine has better biodegradability, meets current environmental protection requirements, reduces long-term negative impacts on the environment, and is suitable for the development of green and sustainable cleaning products. product.

The Use of Triethanolamine in Concrete Engineering

Early strength agent: As an important component of concrete composite early strength agent, triethanolamine can significantly improve the early strength of concrete. By accelerating the hydration process of cement, it promotes faster hydration and hardening of cement particles, thereby achieving higher strength in the early stages after pouring, which is beneficial to shortening the construction period and enabling early loading.

Improve fluidity and workability: Adding triethanolamine during the concrete mixing process can reduce the surface tension of the cement slurry, make the cement particles better dispersed in the water, increase the fluidity and plasticity of the concrete, facilitate construction operations, and reduce water use quantity to ensure the density of concrete.

Improving impermeability: Triethanolamine can effectively reduce the porosity inside concrete through its interaction with cement hydration products, forming a denser structure, thus enhancing the impermeability of concrete, preventing the penetration of water and harmful substances, and extending the length of concrete. The service life of the structure.

Prevent powder aggregation: In cement production, triethanolamine is used as a grinding aid to prevent powder aggregation during the crushing process, improve cement fluidity and filling density, reduce energy consumption, and improve production efficiency.

Catalytic effect: Triethanolamine catalyzes the hydration of cement, promotes the dissolution of calcium oxide, accelerates the hydration reaction, is conducive to the generation of more cement cementing materials, and enhances the overall performance of concrete.

Steel bar protection: Although the salt in the triethanolamine solution may cause concerns about the corrosion of steel bars, its alkaline nature actually has a certain anti-corrosion protection effect on steel bars, especially when used with corrosion inhibitors. long-term durability.

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