Glycerine is the trivial name and the common term for Propane-1,2,3-triol. Glycerine is a sugar alcohol and the simplest trihydric alcohol, a triol. The name glycerol was introduced as it has the correct ending –ol for an alcohol (the ending –in stands for alkynes or amines).
Glycerine is a by-product of saponified, hydrolyzed or transesterfied fats and oils. After being recovered in a crude state, it is refined through distillation.
Physically, glycerine is a water-soluble, clear, colorless and odorless, sweet-tasting and viscous liquid with a high boiling point. Chemically, glycerine is a trihydric alcohol capable of being reacted yet stable under most conditions. Because of these unusual properties, its good compatibility with numerous other substances and the ease of processing it, glycerine is used in many areas.
Whether used in cosmetics, medicines, foodstuffs or in the technical field, glycerine is an extremely useful and versatile raw material.
Physical and Chemical Properties
- 1,26 g·cm−3 (20 °C)
Boiling point / decomposition temperature:
Danger of explosion:
- The product does not present an explosive hazard; however, explosive vapor-air mixtures can form.
Solubility in / miscibility with water:
- fully miscible
Recovery and Origin
There are two different types of glycerine − vegetable and petrochemical glycerine. Nowadays, the petrochemical production process is only seldom used. vegetable oils, so-called triglycerides form the basis for the production of glycerine.
Today, vegetable glycerine is produced industrially using three established methods. It is important that it is produced as the by-product of a reaction, a so-called joint product.
- Saponification – for the manufacture of soap
- Hydrolytic cleavage – for the production of fatty acids
- Esterification – biodiesel
As it is harmless for health and environment, skin-friendly and odorless, glycerine is used both as a humectant and an emollient in cosmetics, personal care products and household products.
In creams, glycerine is a moisturizing component. It supports skin care and, at the same time, prevents the cream from drying out. As glycerine is also odorless, it is a good base for adding perfume and is used as a substance carrier in personal and hair care products.
The production of toothpaste, for example, is a large area of application. Here glycerine is used to improve the taste, prevent dehydration and lend a shine. Toothpaste can contain 20-30% glycerine.
There is also broad scope for the use of glycerine in foodstuffs and beverages: as a preservative, a consistency and flavor enhancer, as a solvent for flavors and food colors in soft drinks and confectionary; in sweets and cakes as well as casings for chocolates, meat and cheese it serves as a humectant and emollient.
Glycerine is one of the most often used ingredients for drugs. It acts as a solvent, moistener, humectant, and bodying agent in tinctures, elixirs, and ointments.
Other well-known uses include gargles, cough medicines, capsules, lozenges, suppositories, and anesthetics, as well as an additive in antibiotics and antiseptics.
Animal feed also benefits from the advantages glycerine offers: it is used in dry feed to store moisture and improve the taste.
In veterinary medicine, glycerine is used as a source of glucose in bovine ketosis.
In the technical field, glycerine is used to manufacture antifreeze agents, among other things. The solidification point of refined glycerine 99.5% is +18°C. Mixed in water at a concentration of 66.7%, its solidification point is
This property is excellent for glycerine’s use as an antifreeze agent in formulations. As a chemical alcohol, glycerine is also needed in numerous reactions in the production of chemicals. Here the range of applications is very broad.
Glycerine is also typically used in the production of alkyd resins. Further technical uses are in the manufacture of paper, textiles and lubricants.
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