Paraffin oil is a commonly used fuel in cooking, heating and lighting. It was used much more in the past than today, but is still used in many of its past applications. It is also used in jet fuel to power rockets and aeroplanes.
Paraffin oil is made of a long chain of molecules known as hydrocarbons. It is found in petroleum, and undergoes various industrial processes to extract it. The oil is a thin, clear liquid which has many uses.
Paraffin is extracted from a mixture of petroleum chemicals which are found in the ground. To get paraffin, first crude oil needs to be collected from the ground. This is done in drilling operations.
Paraffin oil can be bought from many hardware stores. It is usually sold in small containers, and 1-K clear paraffin should be used in most paraffin heaters. Paraffin should not be stored for long periods of time, as the longer it is kept the more the fuel breaks down.
Paraffin oil can be used to power the jet engines in aeroplanes and even rockets. They are mixed with liquid oxygen, which causes the paraffin to be enough of a heating source to use in a rocket.
Distillation separates the different components of crude oil, including paraffin. The crude oil is heated, and this causes the lighter hydrocarbons to rise and heavy hydrocarbons to stay at the bottom of the tank. This is because the heavier hydrocarbons have a higher boiling point.
The oil fraction between 150-250°C contains paraffing (also known as kerosene). This is separated from the crude oil in the distillation process, and is run through the distillation process multiple times. This increases the purity of the kerosene, reducing the amount of compounds which have not separated into the correct place. This is known as refluxing.
Once the paraffin is distilled, it goes through further chemical processes to create the paraffin. After these processes it is finally run through an additional extraction process. This removes any secondary contaminants, such as benzene, which would affect the burning properties of the paraffin if they remained. Secondary contaminants cause more soot to be released in the combustible gases produced when burning the paraffin.
Paraffin Lamp Oil
Kerosene can be used in cooking and lighting, although this became less popular following the advent of electricity. The Amish, a religious group in America, still rely on paraffin oil for many daily tasks. The Amish do not use electricity, and so use paraffin oil lamps and stoves for lighting and cooking. Paraffin oil is still used for cooking by many poor families in India. This has caused the Indian government to subsidise the fuel to keep prices low.
Paraffin oil has a variety of other uses. The oil can be used to store substances that need to be kept away from oxygen. This includes the alkali metals, such as sodium or potassium, which are highly reactive to air.
Kerosene is also popular in many fire based performances. It is used in poi, fire-dancing and fire-breathing. Paraffin oil has a low flame temperature when burnt in air, which reduces the risk to the entertainer. It is rarely used for indoor performances, due to the odour of the paraffin oil.