Guide to Stabilizers


Improved performance is an idea every business strives to achieve. In a corporate setting, it can mean adjusting the structure or function of a department or adding more staff to a particular team. This same idea can be applied to material science — by adjusting or adding to a substance, you can improve the overall functionality of a material. One of the ways to accomplish this is by adding stabilizers.

While many materials work well by themselves, the needs of an application may require slight alterations to improve performance. For many applications, this can be accomplished through the use of a stabilizer. From industrial plastics to ice cream cones, stabilizers are found throughout industry, improving the chemical and physical properties of a substance and preventing degradation.

In this article you will learn:

What is a stabilizer?

At its most basic, a stabilizer is any substance that is used to preserve the physical and chemical properties of a material and prevent degradation. At a chemical level, these stabilizers work by inhibiting chemical reactions. Stabilizers assist in extending the useful life of materials and preventing premature failure.

There are many types of stabilizers, and they vary based on the property being preserved and the industrial purpose of the stabilizer. From metal corrosion and polymer aging to oxidation in fuel and food, stabilizers can help a range of industries.

Some specific examples of emulsifier functions include:

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How stabilizers work

Stabilizers are functionally the opposite of catalysts — while catalysts and enzymes work to increase the rate of a chemical reaction, stabilizers work to hinder these reactions. Stabilizers work at a molecular and chemical level, preventing or altering reactions like corrosion, oxidation, or separation. For many of these stabilizers, their activity focuses on inhibiting the function of a catalyst or enzyme.

Stabilizers that act on catalytic reactions work by either preventing the formation of the catalyst-substrate complex or by modifying the catalyst's active site. Stabilizers can also do both simultaneously. Regardless of how it works, stabilizers degrade the effectiveness of the catalyst, preventing the enzyme from facilitating reactions.

Stabilizers can be grouped into one of two categories — irreversible agents and reversible agents. Irreversible agents act by catalyst poisoning, where a catalyst's activity is permanently destroyed or altered, preventing the reaction from ever occurring in that catalyst. Reversible agents, however, work by forming a non-permanent complex with the catalyst that prevents the reaction from occurring. When removed, reversible agents allow the catalyst to return to its original functionality.

Reversible agents are further split into two types, described below:

  • Competitive inhibitors: With these inhibitors, the stabilizer binds to the active site of the catalyst, preventing the substrate from binding there. As the concentration of the substrate increases, however, catalyst function returns. The total inhibition percentage is determined by the ratio between inhibitor and substrate, not the total concentration of the inhibitor.
  • Non-competitive inhibitors: With non-competitive inhibitors, the agent binds to sites besides the active site, causing the catalyst to stop functioning without directly binding to the active site. In this case, the concentration of the inhibitor determines the total inhibition percentage in the substrate.

As with any chemical, different stabilizers will work using different chemical mechanisms. They will also have different outcomes based on the amount of product, the point of dispersion, and surrounding environmental factors.

At present, the essential stabilizers are calcium, lead, and tin-based stabilizers. Liquid and light stabilizers are also common, while cadmium-based stabilizers are rarely in use due to health and environmental concerns.

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The purpose and benefits of a chemical stabilizer

The primary purpose of a stabilizer is to prevent a substance from degrading over time. However, that is not the only benefit of using a stabilizer.

Some of the additional benefits of using stabilizers include the following:

  • Increase functional life: Products with stabilizers have longer
    useful lives than products without them. This means that food
    has a longer shelf life, and materials can function for longer without
    needing repair or replacement.
  • Maintain structural integrity: Environmental factors can cause
    the chemical structure of a substance to change over time.
    For example, heat can cause foods to separate and plastics to melt.
    Chemical stabilizers can help prevent this by protecting the
    substrate from heat stress.
  • Maximize and improve functionality: Many substances work well
    in a specific application but may need a slight adjustment to function
    at optimal levels. Stabilizers can help improve the functionality
    of substrates by improving their stability in certain chemical
    and environmental situations.

Industries using chemical stabilizers

Between these benefits, the wide variety of stabilizers, and their efficacy at low concentrations, stabilizers are extremely popular in a range of industries.

Stabilizers are used across several industries for a variety of specific purposes. While all of these stabilizers are used to protect the substrate from degradation over time, different types of stabilizers are used based on the requirements of the specific industry.

Some uses of stabilizers in various industries are described in more detail below:

Get to know our stabilizers

Stabilizers are essential ingredients in the development of plastic, elastomer, and food products, helping improve performance for a range of products across various industries. From UV and heat protection to corrosion and oxidation resistance, stabilizers prevent degradation in many ways. However, to achieve top-quality results, you need top-quality chemical stabilizers. We can help.

We are the global leader in chemical and ingredients distribution, serving all major markets with our comprehensive portfolio of products. From the food industry to the oil and gas industry to the plastics industry, we serve customers of all types and sizes, connecting them with leading chemical manufacturers around the world.

For over 100 years, we have committed to quality in chemical distribution, helping us become a top specialty and chemical distributor trusted by hundreds of companies worldwide. Our commitment to quality means that you will receive only the best options in chemical supplies. Even better, our company has 190 distribution locations, so you can quickly connect and secure the materials your business needs.

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