Alkyl Benzene Sulfonate

Definition - What does Alkyl Benzene Sulfonate mean?

Alkyl benzene sulfonate (ABS) refers to a family of branched chain organic chemical compounds that were used as detergents. They are regarded as "hard" detergents due to their resistance to biological degradation. These compounds have been widely replaced by linear alkyl sulfonate (LAS), which is environmentally friendly and easily biodegrades to simpler substances. Alkyl benzene sulfonate caused persistent foam in sewage treatment plants, streams and rivers and created environmental problems.

Corrosionpedia explains Alkyl Benzene Sulfonate

Alkyl benzene sulfonate (ABS) is an organic chemical compound primarily used as a surfactant. Its chemical formula is C6H5CnH2n+1, where n lies between 10 and 16. ABS is a major component of anionic detergents. Alkyl benzene sulfonates have two types depending on their chain structures: branched and linear chain. In the detergent industry, liner ABS is preferred because it is more biodegradable than ABS.

Linear alkylbenzene sulfonate (LAS), a biodegradable surfactant, is manufactured from sulfonation of linear alkyl benzene. LAS has taken the place of branched dodecylbenzene sulfonates. Branched chain ABS biodegrades very slowly and therefore contributes to polluting lakes and streams by forming relatively stable foams.

LAS has excellent surfactants power, which has made them suitable for detergents, emulsifiers, and dispersing, wetting and foaming agents. It is very stable in hard water as well as in low acidic and alkaline media.

Although both ABS and LAS eventually fully degrade in an aerobic environment, linear ABS (LAS) biodegrades much faster than highly branched ABS (BAS). Adequate aerobic sewage treatment facilities are required for either of them to degrade.

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