Antioxidants are chemical compounds that delay or inhibit the oxidation processes of other molecules.
Operation of antioxidants is based on mechanisms called primary and secondary effects. The primary effect involves neutralization of free radicals formed in oxidation reactions. Free radicals are extremely chemically active – in the presence of oxygen, ozone or in specific temperatures they may initiate a chain reaction leading to the breakage of molecular chains. As a result of degradation of the structure, the product changes its physico-chemical properties, losing operational properties.The addition of antioxidant inactivates free radicals as a result of their reaction with active groups of the antioxidant (e.g. multiple bonds). This reaction delays the ageing process of substances, which results in their longer service life. The secondary effect involves delaying of the oxidation reaction by oxygen deactivation, radiation absorption or complexion of metal ions that catalyses chain reactions. The use of antioxidants ensures thermal and process protection also during the processing of different substances, e.g. plastics.
Antioxidants should offer a number of properties, including: high efficiency at low concentrations, good solubility in a medium; resistance to other chemical substances and physical agents, as well as stability at high temperatures. At the same time, they should not affect the characteristics of the finished products such as consistency, colour or scent.
Antioxidants are widely used in various industrial applications. They are added to gasoline, lubricants and plastic products. They are also used in automotive sector, electronics, furniture and in the building industry for producing roofing, construction materials or PVC pipes. In textile industry, antioxidants are used as additives during the production of artificial leather.
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