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Cetyl alcohol

Cetyl alcohol
IUPAC name 1-Hexadecanol
Other names Cetanol, Cetyl alcohol, Ethal, Ethol, Hexadecanol, Hexadecyl alcohol, Palmityl alcohol
CAS number 36653-82-4
PubChem 2682
Molecular formula CH3(CH2)15OH
Molar mass 242.44 g/mol
Density 0.819 g/cm³
Melting point

56 °C, 329 K, 133 °F

Boiling point

189 °C, 462 K, 372 °F

Except where noted otherwise, data are given for
materials in their standard state
(at 25 °C, 100 kPa)

Infobox disclaimer and references

Cetyl alcohol, also known as 1-hexadecanol and palmityl alcohol, is a solid organic compound and a member of the alcohol class of compounds. Its chemical formula is CH3(CH2)15OH. At room temperature, cetyl alcohol takes the form of a waxy white solid or flakes. It belongs to the group of fatty alcohols.

The name cetyl derives from the whale oil (Latin: cetus) from which it was first isolated.



Cetyl alcohol was discovered in 1817 by the French chemist Michel Chevreul when he heated spermaceti, a waxy substance obtained from sperm whale oil, with caustic potash (potassium hydroxide). Flakes of cetyl alcohol were left behind on cooling.


With the demise of commercial whaling, cetyl alcohol is no longer primarily produced from whale oil, but instead either as an end-product of the petroleum industry, or produced from vegetable oils such as palm oil and coconut oil. Production of cetyl alcohol from palm oil gives rise to one of its alternative names, palmityl alcohol.


Cetyl alcohol is used in the cosmetic industry as a surfactant in shampoos, or as an emollient, emulsifier or thickening agent in the manufacture of skin creams and lotions. It is also employed as a lubricant for nuts and bolts.

Related compounds

This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Cetyl_alcohol". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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