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  • Diethanolamine, often abbreviated as DEA, is an organic compound with the formula HN(CH2CH2OH)2. This colorless liquid is polyfunctional, being a secondary amine and a diol. Like other organic amines, diethanolamine acts as a weak base. Reflecting the hydrophilic character of the alcohol groups, DEA is soluble in water, and is even hygroscopic.
  • Amides prepared from DEA are often also hydrophilic. The reaction of ethylene oxide with aqueous ammonia first produces ethanolamine which reacts with a second and third equivalent of ethylene oxide to give DEA and triethanolamine.
  • DEA is a versatile chemical intermediate, principal derivatives include ethyleneimine an diethylenediamine. Dehydration of DEA with sulfuric acid gives morpholine. Amides derived from DEA and fatty acids, known as diethanolamides, are amphiphilic.
  • DEA is used in the production of diethanolamides, which are common ingredients in cosmetics and shampoos added to confer a creamy texture and foaming action. Consequently, some cosmetics that include diethanolamides as ingredients may contain traces of DEA. Some of the most commonly used diethanolamides include Cocamide DEA, DEA-Cetyl Phosphate, DEA Oleth-3 Phosphate, Lauramide DEA, Myristamide DEA, Oleamide DEA and Triethanolamine.
  • Diethanolamine is used in a number of consumer products, such as shampoos, cosmetics, and pharmaceuticals.
  • Acute (short-term) inhalation exposure to diethanolamine in humans may result in irritation of the nose and throat, and dermal exposure may irritate the skin. Animal studies have reported effects on the liver, kidney, blood, and central nervous system (CNS) from chronic oral exposure to diethanolamine.
  • In oil refineries, a DEA in water solution is commonly used to remove hydrogen sulfide from various process gases.
  • It has an advantage over a similar amine ethanolamine in that a higher concentration may be used for the same corrosion potential. This allows refiners to scrub hydrogen sulfide at a lower circulating amine rate with less overall energy usage.

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