Most people rarely pay attention to the long and confusing ingredients lists on every item, so you’ll be surprised that butylated hydroxytoluene is one of the most common and approved antioxidants in the world. From lubricants to cosmetics and medicines, BHT has a variety of uses and enhances many of the products we encounter on an everyday basis. But what actually is the BHT chemical? In this article, we are going to explore butylated hydroxytoluene and why it’s frequently used by companies, as well as the benefits of using antioxidants in lubricants within the industry.
What is Butylated Hydroxytoluene?
BHT is a non-staining antioxidant found in green algae and derived from phenol.1 Due to its antioxidant properties, it’s highly demanded in various industries, and it’s available in several physical forms, including free-flowing spherical particles. Essentially, it is a hindered phenolic antioxidant with a low molecular weight that reduces the degradation of organic materials initiated by heat, light, and time.
It’s a fat-soluble organic compound used in plastics and petroleum products, and it’s also frequently used in vegetable oils, animal foods, and edible fats.2 Butylated hydroxytoluene is also used as a stabilizer in cosmetics to help maintain the properties and performance of products when they’re exposed to air (i.e. avoiding changes in color or texture).3
The BHT chemical is also frequently found in technical-grade products. It’s often seen as antioxidants in lubricants, for example, in hydraulic fluids, jet fuels, gear oils, and other metalworking fluids.4
Why Do Companies Use the BHT Chemical?
Butylated hydroxytoluene is commonly used as an antioxidant in various products. It is used by companies as an effective method of delaying oxidation, as it absorbs or traps free radicals that would otherwise result in the base oil rapidly oxidizing.5 For food products or cosmetics, this could drastically alter their appearance and texture, whereas for lubricants, it could deem them ineffective.
Many companies don’t use the BHT chemical as an ingredient in its own regard but instead to benefit from its antioxidizing properties. As well as ensuring the quality and stability of raw materials and formulas, BHT is also able to resist high temperatures, unlike some other natural antioxidants. This makes it incredibly useful in various manufacturing processes.
Other manufacturing problems that butylated hydroxytoluene has been able to solve are:
- Discoloration of materials or breakdown of inks, pigments, coatings, and plastics
- The limited stability of polymers to light and high temperatures
- FDA and Kosher clearances to use in food and food-contact applications – BHT is food grade and entirely safe
- Difficulties handling and mixing traditional crystalline products.
Caution surrounding BHT use has also subsided in recent years, becoming a more reliable and trustworthy choice of additive for companies. Despite accusations, the World Health Organization (WHO)’s definition proved it not to be an endocrine disruptor or to have toxic effects on the liver, and it’s also no longer suspected to be a bioaccumulative substance for the aquatic environment.6
How is BHT Used in Industrial Lubricants?
The role of lubricating oil in the operation of mechanical equipment is often compared to blood in the human body – it’s essential yet may be susceptible to degradation in the presence of pressure, high temperatures, or oxygen.7 Butylated hydroxytoluene helps to delay oxidation, making it an advantageous choice to employ as an antioxidant in lubricants.
Oxidation is the cause of many unfavorable conditions in lubricants, such as the formation of sludge and other deposits, decreased lubricity, plugging of filters, and decreased load-bearing capacity. This degradation of the lubricant reduces its ability to protect mechanical equipment against wear and friction, leading to significant damage.8
By using the BHT chemical, the oxidative resistance of the base oil is increased, thus preventing damage and prolonging the lubricant’s life. Using additives for lubricants also allows them to operate at higher temperatures which wouldn’t otherwise be possible. This is particularly useful where large amounts of friction are concerned, such as brake fluids and hydraulics.
Benefits of BHT as an Industrial Lubricant?
Compared to other antioxidants in lubricants, BHT has been found to be more stable, specifically in heat. It has also been found to be more effective as an antioxidant and is subsequently used as the standard for many lubricants.9
Butylated hydroxytoluene also occupies a significant section of the industry when it comes to specialty and lubricating oils. It is often the first choice for lubricants in mining, quarrying, plastics, machinery, metal forming, and various other industries. It’s proven to be a first-class choice that many manufacturers demand.
Due to the automotive industry’s expansion, there’s evidence that this will lead to an increased demand for additives for lubricants. As a result, the global BHT market is expected to grow at a CAGR of 5% from 2022-2017. This will take it from a 2020 valuation of USD 229 million to USD 307 million by 2026.10
Finding the right antioxidants in lubricants can be a confusing and labor-intensive process, especially if your chemical knowledge isn’t up to scratch. At Van Horn Metz, we have sales representatives with many years of experience, so you can trust us to find the best solution to your problem.
Ivanhoe Industries offers emulsifiers, antifoams, hydrophobic silica and release agents, catering towards lubricants, personal care, rubber, and other industries. Butylated hydroxytoluene is just one of our many offerings – our highly trained technical staff will be able to assess and source the best chemicals for you.
To find out how we can source the BHT chemical and other additives for lubricants ahead of your next project, visit our website.