Profile of Carbomer

Oct 1, 2011 | Contact Author | By: Mike J. Fevola, Johnson & Johnson
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Title: Profile of Carbomer
carbomerx polymer viscosityx stabilizerx
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Keywords: carbomer | polymer viscosity | stabilizer

Abstract: Carbomers, a family of crosslinked acrylic acid polymers, are essential ingredients in numerous products, including: pharmaceuticals; cosmetics and personal care items; household, industrial and institutional care products; printing inks; adhesives and coatings. This column will explore the chemistry and properties of carbomers that have earned them this well-deserved reputation.

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M Fevola, Profile of Carbomer, Cosm & Toil 126(10) 602 (2011)

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Carbomers, a family of crosslinked acrylic acid polymers, are essential ingredients in numerous products, including: pharmaceuticals; cosmetics and personal care items; household, industrial and institutional care products; printing inks; adhesives and coatings. For more than 50 years, formulators across multiple industries have relied on various carbomers to build viscosity, form gels, stabilize emulsions and suspend particles. When used correctly, carbomers help to build consumer-desired aesthetics into products while simultaneously enabling long-term shelf stability. Due to their utility, reliability and occasional ability to rescue doomed product launches by stabilizing poorly conceived formulas against separation, carbomers have been described by seasoned product developers as, “a formulator’s best friend.” This column will explore the chemistry and properties of carbomers that have earned them this well-deserved reputation.

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Table 1. Summary of NF-29 nomenclature for carbomers

Table 1. Summary of NF-29 nomenclature for carbomers

The National Formulary (NF) lists traditional carbomers individually according to their specific chemistry and properties, e.g., solution viscosity, using numbers associated with the trade names of early carbomers, e.g., carbomer 93.

Figure 1. Chemical structures for a) linear polyacrylic acid (PAA), and b) polyacrylic acid crosslinked with TAPE

Figure 1. Chemical structures for a) linear polyacrylic acid (PAA), and  b) polyacrylic acid crosslinked with TAPE

Numerous varieties of crosslinked acrylic acid homo- and copolymers exist, but the term carbomer is typically reserved to describe high molecular weight polymers of acrylic acid that are lightly crosslinked with allyl ethers of polyalcohols.

Figure 2. Examples of polyfunctional allyl ethers employed as crosslinkers in carbomers, a) TAPE and b) hexaallyl sucrose

Figure 2. Examples of polyfunctional allyl ethers employed as crosslinkers  in carbomers, a) TAPE and b) hexaallyl sucrose

Examples of such polyfunctional allyl ethers include tetraallyl pentaerythritol (TAPE) and hexaallyl sucrose, as shown in Figure 2.

Figure 3. A representative carbomer synthesis

Figure 3. A representative carbomer synthesis

A typical carbomer synthesis is shown in Figure 3.

Biography: Michael J. Fevola, PhD, Johnson & Johnson

Michael J. Fevola, PhD, is a manager in the New Technologies group at Johnson & Johnson Consumer and Personal Products Worldwide in Skillman, NJ, where he leads R&D in polymer and surface chemistry. Fevola has authored 12 peer-reviewed articles and book chapters, is an inventor on six US patents, and is a member of the Personal Care Product Council’s International Nomenclature Committee and the Society of Cosmetic Chemists.

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