Time to scrub things up – Stearic acid

Today crystal structure is our 200th post! Quite a milestone, but still 167 crystal structures to go. We thought we’d feature one of the most important materials that we use everyday – soap!

What does it look like?

Image generated by the VESTA (Visualisation for Electronic and STructual analysis) software http://jp-minerals.org/vesta/en/

Image generated by the VESTA (Visualisation for Electronic and STructual analysis) software http://jp-minerals.org/vesta/en/

What is it?

Stearic-acid-3D-ballsThis is stearic acid, a molecule that is made up of a long chain of 18 carbon atoms capped with an oxygen and hydroxyl group. This makes for a waxy solid, which is found in nearly all animal and vegetable fats.

Stearic acid is also a key ingredient in soap, helping it to hold its shape. But also, as a surfactant, work as a cleanser too – grabbing on to the dirt on your skin.

Where did the structure come from?

Stearic acid comes in a number of different forms (or polymorphs), we’ve chosen to feature the C form of this material which was found by Malta et al. in 1971. This structure was determined with laboratory x-ray diffraction data, so only the carbon and oxygen positions were found.

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