C3H8O3 is the Molecular Formula of Glycerine

In chemistry a molecular formula indicates every single atom and its numbers in a chemical compound. Hence the molecular formula C3H8O3 simply says that there are three carbon (C) atoms, eight hydrogen (H) atoms and three oxygen (O) atoms in this compound.

This molecular formula on its own does not indicate how the atoms interact with each other or whether bonding occurs between them.

Trihydric Alcohol

The molecular formula for glycerine can also be presented differently; C3H5(OH)3 is also a molecular formula for glycerine used in chemistry. If we take a closer look at this formula, we see that three oxygen (O) atoms and three hydrogen (H) atoms are bonded, namely in the OH group. This hydroxyl group (-OH) is the functional group of alcohols. Glycerine (chemically correct name glycerol or propanetriol) is called a trihydric alcohol as it occurs exactly three times in the structural formula C3H8O3. Incidentally, glycerol is a right name because in chemistry the suffix -ol is correct for alcohol. 

Production and Chemical Properties of C3H8O3

C3H8O3 glycerine is present as the backbone in all fats. Originally, it was generated during the saponification of animal fats. Glycerine is also a by-product from the production of biodiesel. Furthermore, it is produced petrochemically from propene. In addition, it can also be produced through fermentation. Here yeasts switch to glycerin production if sulphite is added. 

Glycerine is odorless, viscous, and attracts water. It melts at a temperature of 18.2 °C, becomes liquid at 20 °C, and its boiling point is 290 °C. At temperatures below its melting point, glycerol solidifies into crystals. It has a density of 1.26 g/cm³. It is readily soluble in alcohol and water. Under the effect of heat, it forms white vapor. If the process takes place during deoxygenation, it disintegrates to aldehyde acrolein; this toxic substance is also known as acrylaldehyde.

Manifold Applications of C3H8O3

Glycerine is extremely versatile. It is used as a moisturizer in cosmetics, but also as an antifreeze agent, emollient or lubricant as well as in the production of plastics.
Colorings or toothpaste and even microchips come into contact with glycerin during their production.

The substance is useful in the medical field where it serves as a medication for treating brain edema or for manufacturing suppositories.

Glycerine is also used as an additive in the food industry. Here it is known as E 422.


Dominik von Borstel

Business Manager Glycerin
Phone: +49 (0) 40 / 3 20 11 - 372
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Tobias Thiel 

Senior Product Manager Glycerin
Phone: +49 (0) 40 / 3 20 11 - 284
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