When n-heptane is deployed as a test fuel component in anti-knock test engines, a 100% heptane fuel denotes the zero point of the octane rating scale. An octane number corresponds to the anti-knocking properties of a fuel. High purity n-Heptane (>99%) can be produced from crude oil through precision refining and distillation techniques, which are used for the measurement of octane rating for fuels. n-Heptane is an alkane of the straight-chain type, having molecular formula C7H16. It is used as a test fuel constituent. N-Heptane also finds important applications in the purification process of pharmaceutical products and other synthetic organics. n-Heptane and its multiple isomers are extensively used in laboratories as non-polar solvents. As a liquid, n-Heptane is known to display many advantages. It is also easy to store and transport. Besides, it has many end uses. For instance, in the grease spot test, n-heptane is used to dissolve oil spots to display the initial presence of organic compounds on a stained paper.
This test can be successfully carried out by shaking the stained paper in a heptane solution for around 30 seconds. These varied set of applications of n-heptane have been promoting a very promising outlook for the chemical in terms of demand, over the next few years. The rising demand for n-heptane from a diverse range of industries such as paints & coatings, chemicals, plastics & rubber, food & beverages and pharmaceutical & healthcare, is expected to translate into an increased market potential for n-heptane across all regions worldwide. In particular, the demand from the Asia Pacific, being fueled primarily by China is expected to be a key driving factor, on account of the vast industry size and a substantially high growth rate of the region’s industry, along with the rapidly growing healthcare sector as well.
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Important application – separation of bromine from iodine
n-heptane is used to distinguish aqueous bromine from aqueous iodine because of the color distinction advantage provided by n-heptane. In water, both bromine and iodine appear brown. This makes it visually difficult to differentiate between bromine and iodine for separation purposes. However, iodine changes its color to purple when dissolved in n-heptane. The bromine solution, on the other hand, retains its brown color. Hence, n-heptane is often used to distinguish between iodine and bromine for their effective separation using phase separation techniques.
Environmental conformation with price attractiveness driving market growth
n-heptane finds important use in the distinction of aqueous bromine from aqueous iodine by its appearance after extraction into n-heptane. This is so because of the color distinction advantage provided by n-heptane. For instance, in water, both bromine and iodine appear brown. This makes its visually difficult to distinguish between bromine and iodine for separation purposes. However, iodine changes color to purple when dissolved in n-heptane, while the bromine solution retains its brown color. Hence, n-heptane plays an important role in helping distinguish iodine and bromine for their effective separation using phase separation techniques.
Preferential usage of n-heptane fueling market demand
n-heptane is known to provide cleaner extracts. It offers innumerous advantages due its relatively inert characteristics vis-à-vis dichloromethane solvent. The latter generates hydrochloric acid in certain conditions, such as when used as a solvent, and can damage the extraction equipment. For instance, generation of hydrochloric acid in a hot injector using dichloromethane can potentially cause degradation and form active sites in the injector and column. This further translates into poor chromatography results, thereby reducing the column life. This disadvantage could be easily eliminated using n-heptane. N-heptane is also used as an industrial fuel, a cleaning agent and a laboratory agent in specific applications.
Hazardous nature could prove to be a restraint to market growth
However, there are a few drawbacks with regard to the use of n-heptane. N-heptane is hazardous and can harm skin and eyes on coming in contact or if ingested or inhaled. That apart, it is highly flammable in the presence of open flames and sparks. There is always an explosion risk with this product. Besides, the provision of exhaust ventilation or other engineering controls to keep the airborne concentration of vapors below their threshold limit value is mandatory. These drawbacks may prove to be a constraint for the rapid growth of the global n-heptane market.
Regional Market Outlook
In terms of geography, the n-heptane market has been divided into seven regions — North America, Latin America, Europe, South East Asia (SEA) and Rest of APAC, China, Japan and Middle-East & Africa. China and SEA & Rest of APAC are dominating markets for n-heptane due to their growing population and increasing demand for n-heptane applications across a diverse range of industries. North America and Europe are the next most important regional markets for n-heptane — Germany, France and the U.K. are key countries in the European region. The n-heptane market in Asian countries is expected to be the most promising market for players during the forecast period owing to various factors such as developing healthcare facilities, growing chemicals, plastics & rubber and the paints & coatings industry and increasing use of n-heptane in the pharmaceutical & the healthcare industry.
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Some of the key n-heptane manufacturers operating in the global N-heptane market include Exxon Mobil Corporation, Shell Chemicals, Airgas USA, LLC, Chevron Phillips Chemical Company, and Merck KGaA. Some of the other producers of n-heptane include, Panreac Quimica S.L.U., Alfa Aesar, among others.