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Glycerin

  • Bulk Glycerine
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chem-30
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Product Description

Glycerin

Glycerin (also commonly called glycerin and glycyl alcohol) is a simple alcohol compound composed of three hydroxyl groups. It is a liquid form which is colorless and odorless. It is highly soluble in water and ethanol. Glycerin is highly hygroscopic, which means it naturally absorbs water from the air; it is a dehydrating substance. Glycerin has a sweet taste and has a low toxicity. Glycerin is the backbone of a triglyceride. Its melting point is -17.8 degrees Celsius and its boiling point is 290 degrees Celsius. Its chemical formula is C3H8O3 and its lab name is 1,2,3-Propanetriol.

 

Origin/History

A Swedish chemist named Carl W. Scheele discovered glycerin in 1779. Scheele combined and heated olive oil and litharge (an oxide of lead) which yielded what we now call glycerin. The mixture naturally produced glycerin which he called “sweet oil”. Eventually, it became to be known as glycerin which is a derivative of the Greek word glykys, which means sweet. Since its discovery, glycerin has become a widely used product throughout the world.    

 

Composition/Production

Historically, the process of obtaining glycerin was through a complex process of candle making involving animal fats; glycerin was a natural byproduct of the process. Today, and ever since 1889, this process has become far less complicated. Glycerin is produced through the mixing of fats and lye for soap making. Animal and vegetable fats naturally have glycerin as part of their chemical composition. As the fats mix with lye during saponification, a mixture with soap develops, yielding glycerin as the natural byproduct. To extract the glycerin from the soap mixture, commercial soap makers add salt, which curdles the soap and floats it to the top. The soap is skimmed from the top of this mixture leaving glycerin. At this state, there are many additives still in the glycerin so it is distilled to remove these impurities and then bleached.

 

Today, the United States produces over 70% of the world’s glycerin through the process described above and through collection of glycerin as a byproduct of biodiesel. Glycerin manufactured as a byproduct of biofuel is known as crude glycerin. Three-fourths of the world’s consumption of glycerin comes from Western Europe, Asia and the United States.

 

Uses/Benefits

Glycerin is widely used in the cosmetic and pharmaceutical industries. It’s also used in food and beverage manufacturing, antifreeze and in some products acting as a chemical intermediate.

 

In many pharmaceutical, medical and personal care and cosmetic products, glycerin is used as a humectant and lubricant. It improves smoothness in products. Allergy treatments, cough medicines and elixirs use glycerin. Glycerin soothes the throat and decreases coughing as it reduces irritation. Glycerin is also used medically to fight constipation. To alleviate constipation, a rectal suppository laxative of glycerin enters the anus and irritates the anal mucosa, which prompts the release of stools. It is also used to dissolve extra components in electronic cigarettes, which aid in the process of quitting smoking. Many dental products including toothpaste and mouthwash use glycerin. In toothpaste, it makes the paste creamy and sweetens the taste; glycerin soothes the mixture and sweetens mouthwash. Glycerin is used in many lotions and creams, shaving creams, hair products and lubricants primarily due to its characteristic of being hygroscopic and a great humectant. It absorbs water into the product which is then used on our bodies and retains that absorbed moisture. In soaps, glycerin is used due to these same properties. Glycerin soaps have extra glycerin and are used by people who have very sensitive skin; it helps to prevent skin from over-drying as it draws moisture into the skin and slows its drying out by helping skin retain that absorbed moisture. Many bath salts use glycerin as well to improve overall hydration. Water based personal lubricants use glycerin as well. In all of these products, it’s important to pay close attention to the amount of glycerin used in a product; too much can make these products feel greasy and oily, but the right amount will yield great results. Its existence as a natural ingredient makes glycerin a very popularly used humectant, emollient and lubricant in these products.

 

In the food and beverage industry, glycerin is used for a variety of purposes including use as a sweetener, a humectant, a solvent, a preservative, a thickener and filler. It is classified as a carbohydrate by the American Dietetic Association. There are about 27 calories per teaspoon in glycerin, which is similar to sugar, however glycerin’s glycemic index is lower than table sugar and is therefore used as a substitute to sugar in many sweeteners. As a humectant, glycerin prevents many foods from drying out. Many liqueurs use glycerin as a thickening agent. Many endurance athletes consume glycerol to prevent dehydration as it helps to retain the existing water in the body.     

 

Glycerin can be used as antifreeze and was the primary antifreeze used in the automotive industry before it was replaced by more cost efficient ethylene glycol and propylene glycol. Now that biodiesel is now being produced in greater quantities, costs for glycerin in the automotive industry will decrease since glycerin is a natural byproduct of biodiesel. Glycerin is considered a less toxic option for antifreeze since it’s a naturally occurring substance.

 

Glycerin is used in many industries as a lubricant for machines and equipment since it is not a toxic substance.  

 

Nitroglycerin, a vital ingredient in dynamite and many explosives, is produced using glycerin. An Italian chemist named Ascanio Sobrero was the first to create nitroglycerin in the 1800s. Sobrero was greatly injured by his discovery and did not think nitroglycerin could be used safely. Alfred Nobel, a Swedish chemist, mixed nitroglycerin with silica and developed a more stable explosive—what we all know as dynamite today. Nitroglycerin is very powerful and extreme caution must be used when working with this substance.

 

It is important to properly store glycerin so that it does not become diluted. If left uncovered, glycerin will absorb water from the air and dilute itself.

 

Links

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glycerin

 

http://www.chem.yorku.ca/hall_of_fame/essays96/glycerin.htm

 

http://web.cals.uidaho.edu/biodiesel/files/2012/11/Tim_Glycerin-biodiesel-course-061506_2.pdf

 

http://www.pioneerthinking.com/crafts/crafts-soapmaking/glycerin.html?r44b=no

 

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16268396

 

http://www.livestrong.com/article/470193-food-glycerine-definition/

 

http://www.ecogeek.org/component/content/article/2277

 

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