Nonionic Surfactants

Surfactants and polyalkylene glycols are used in a number of areas in the chemical and allied industries. Fast cleaning of bottles, pipes, and tanks in the drinks industry would be unthinkable without surfactants. Surfactants are used in the textile and fibers industry, as well as in the production of leather and furs. In the coatings and inks industry, surfactants and polyalkylene glycols are used as wetting agents and to stabilize formulations.

In applications in the pulp and paper industry, surfactants disperse, for example, the resinous components of the chemical or mechanical pulp. In the polymers industry, surfactants are used in the manufacture of dispersions and plastics. Surfactants and polyalkylene glycols play an important role as foam stabilizers in the production of foams. Surfactants are widely used in metal processing: they free metal surfaces of grease and help to remove oxide coatings. Lubricant coolants are only possible because of surfactants.

In crop protection, it is mainly the wetting, emulsifying, and dispersing properties of surfactants which are used. In the construction industry, surfactants have a liquefying effect in flowing concrete and act as air-entraining agents in lightweight concrete. Surfactants are used as auxiliary agents in the manufacture of foamed plasterboards, in emulsion paints, and in the processing of bitumen for road construction.

In mining, surfactants are involved in the obtaining of minerals, coal, and ores by the floatation method. In coal mining, they bind coal dust and make the production of coal-water slurries possible. In oil production, the addition of surfactants (petroleum emulsion separators) enables the emulsion to be separated into an oil phase and a water phase. In tertiary production, the degree of deoiling can be improved by washing with surfactant solutions. Surfactants which degrade in sea water enable drill pipes to be cleaned off-shore. Surfactant-containing foams are used in fire-fighting. In soil remediation, unwanted contaminants are removed by means of suitable processes with surfactant solutions. Surfactants are used as wetting agents in electroplating.

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