Polymethanal (paraformaldehyde)

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Polymethanal is a common fixative in biology. It is used to reduce degradation in cells, tissue and entire organisms before further experiments, e.g. antibody staining.

Too many names

There's plenty of confusion regarding this chemical because too many synonyms exist. Paraformaldyhde is probably still the most common term among biologist, but it ignores attempts to introduce meaningful and systematic names in chemistry. Polymethanal is clearer: poly - polymer, meth - single carbon, -al - aldehyde group.

Comparison with methanal

Chemistry of fixation

Recipes for polymethanal buffers

4% PFA