Glycerin properties

Characteristics and uses of glyceryn


What is glycerin?

Glycerin, with formula C3H8O3, also called 1,2,3-propanotriol or glycerol, is a byproduct mainly obtained in the manufacture of soap. Traditional soaps have vegetable oils and animal fats whose composition includes natural glycerin.

Glycerin forms triglyceride molecules when combined with fatty acids (oleic, palmitic, lauric and stearic acids). It also appears in the cell membranes of plants and animals as a phospholipid.

Glycerin is a product that has a great ability to attract moisture. It becomes liquid at 25 ° C, reaches its boiling point at 290 º C, it is viscous, sweet, odorless and dissolves in water and alcohol

It was discovered by the English chemist Claude Joseph Geoffroy in 1741 and was first isolated by Swedish chemist Carl Wilhelm Scheele in 1779.

How is glycerin obtained?

glycerinA glycerin bar

In the manufacture of industrial soaps, vegetable or animal fats are used mixed with caustic soda.

In this manufacturing process, salt is added to the mixture to separate the glycerin from the whole product. Salt can separate soap itself from other impurities, such as glycerin.

The separation of glycerin is carried out by distillation of the residue. Subsequently, it is filtered and hardened in an appropriate manner within the corresponding mold.

Today, in addition to obtain it in the process of making soap, Glycerin is also obtained from the manufacture of biodiesel and propylene, a product made from petroleum.

Where is glycerin mainly produced?

The world’s biggest producer of glycerine is the United States, which includes more than 70% of world production

Why glycerin is removed from soap?

Glycerin was formerly incorporated in the composition of soap. This provided it with some additional qualities. Glycerin was initially started to be separated when the formula of nitroglycerin was discovered.

Nitroglycerin was an explosive commonly used for making bombs and it was made with a mixture of concentrated nitric acid, sulfuric acid and glycerin.

Later, after the discovery of dynamite, nitroglycerin itself was gradually replaced by dynamite because it was much more stable.

Today, nitroglycerin is still used as an ingredient in the manufacture of sophisticated explosives, and because it dilates blood vessels, as a medicine for myocardial infarction or heart failure.

Glycerin properties and uses

Although the use of glycerine in traditional products is declining, glycerin is a valuable product that is still extracted in the process of making soap. The glycerin can be used for the manufacture of many products. Among them:

  • Medicinal : Suppositories for constipation, excipients for syrups, disinfection products, means to dissolve the components to quit smoking in electronic cigarettes, etc. It is generally used as an excipient, stabilizer and solvent of other medicinal principles.
  • Cosmetics: Mainly soaps (See the listing below for glycerin soap) or toothpaste.
  • Industry: Due to its high viscosity, glycerin is a great lubricant. It is used, for example, to lubricate the oil pumps (it does not dissolve in the product) or as a lubricant for machinery food or drugs (it is not toxic)
    • The textile industry uses it in the manufacture of textile fibers. The leather industry uses it in the tanning and preserving of leather.
    • It appears in the explosives industry in the manufacture of nitroglycerin and other explosives. The tobacco industry employs it to reduce the smell of snuff.
    • It is also present in the manufacture of plastics, paints, varnishes, fiberglass, etc.

Is glycerin edible?

glycerinTranslucent appearance of glycerin when cut into thin slices

Glycerin in its pure state or glycerol, in adequate amounts, poses no health problem. In fact the food industry commonly uses it in the composition of many foods. The food industry names it as E422.

Pure glycerin food is available in pharmacies and health food stores or natural products. Anyway, we must ensure that it is pure.

By means of glycerin the food industry can emulsify (mix) ingredients which, on the contrary, would be separated. So it’s an additive that enhances the presence and quality of products.

Glycerin is used as the active medium (carrier) to dissolve the active ingredients of many medicinal preparations, so that they can be absorbed by the body. Thus, for example, glycerin is the usual carrier for syrups and is the ideal medium where the extracts of many medicinal plants such as coffee or tea are dissolved.

Glycerin is used in prepared foods, because it acts as a thickener, sweetener, stabilizer and preservative.

As a sweetener, it is used as a substitute for sugar, being 40% less sweet than it and having fewer calories. Glycerin has a lower glycemic index than sugar, so it does not raise so much the levels of blood sugar.

What is glycerin soap?

It is a soap whose base is made up of glycerin. In addition to the glycerin, it is generally made with natural colouring and flavors that give it beauty and fragrance.

punto rojoMore information on glycerin.

Written by Editorial Botanical-online team in charge of content writing

20 October, 2021

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