|cetyl alcohol (sēt'l) Pronunciation Key
A waxy alcohol used in lubricants, detergents, cosmetics, and emulsifiers. Chemical formula: C16H34O.
[CH3(CH2)15OH], a solid organic compound that was one of the first alcohols to be isolated from fats. Cetyl alcohol was discovered in 1817 by the French chemist Michel Chevreul. When he heated a sample of spermaceti (a solid wax formed by the cooling of sperm whale oil) with caustic potash (potassium hydroxide), colourless crystals appeared. Although Chevreul thought that these crystals were a compound of ethylene and water, a more complete analysis by other researchers in 1836 established its composition as an alcohol.
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