Glycerol is a simple polyol compound. It is a colorless, odorless, viscous liquid that is sweet-tasting and non-toxic. The glycerol backbone is found in all lipids known as triglycerides. It is widely used in the food industry as a sweetener and humectant and in pharmaceutical formulations. Glycerol has three hydroxyl groups that are responsible for its solubility in water and its hygroscopic nature.
In food and beverages, glycerol serves as a humectant, solvent, and sweetener, and may help preserve foods. It is also used as filler in commercially prepared low-fat foods (e.g., cookies), and as a thickening agent in liqueurs.
Glycerol has a caloric density similar to table sugar, but a lower glycemic index and different metabolic pathway within the body, so some dietary advocates accept glycerol as a sweetener compatible with low-carbohydrate diets.
It is also recommended as an additive when using polyol sweeteners such as erythritol and xylitol which have a cooling effect, due to its heating effect in the mouth, if the cooling effect is not wanted.
It is added to icing (frosting) to prevent it from setting too hard.
Glycerol is used in medical, pharmaceutical and personal care preparations, often as a means of improving smoothness, providing lubrication, and as a humectant. Ichthyosis and xerosis have been relieved by the topical use glycerin. It is found in allergen immunotherapies, cough syrups, elixirs and expectorants, toothpaste, mouthwashes, skin care products, shaving cream, hair care products, soaps, and water-based personal lubricants. In solid dosage forms like tablets, glycerol is used as a tablet holding agent.
Glycerol is a component of glycerin soap. Essential oils are added for fragrance. This kind of soap is used by people with sensitive, easily irritated skin because it prevents skin dryness with its moisturizing properties. It draws moisture up through skin layers and slows or prevents excessive drying and evaporation.
Glycerol can be used as a laxative when introduced into the rectum in suppository or small-volume (2–10 ml) enema form; it irritates the anal mucosa and induces a hyperosmotic effect.
Taken orally (often mixed with fruit juice to reduce its sweet taste), glycerol can cause a rapid, temporary decrease in the internal pressure of the eye. This can be useful for the initial emergency treatment of severely elevated eye pressure.
When utilized in "tincture" method extractions, specifically as a 10% solution, glycerol prevents tannins from precipitating in ethanol extracts of plants (tinctures). It is also used as an "alcohol-free" alternative to ethanol as a solvent in preparing herbal extractions. It is less extractive when utilized in a standard tincture methodology. Alcohol-based tinctures can also have the alcohol removed and replaced with glycerol for its preserving properties.
Glycerin, along with propylene glycol, is a common component of e-liquid, a solution used with electronic vaporizers (electronic cigarettes). This glycerol is heated with an atomizer (a heating coil often made of Kanthal wire), producing the aerosol that delivers nicotine to the user.
Like ethylene glycol and propylene glycol, glycerol is a non-ionic kosmotrope that forms strong hydrogen bonds with water molecules, competing with water-water hydrogen bonds. This interaction disrupts the formation of ice. The minimum freezing point temperature is about −36 °F (−38 °C) corresponding to 70% glycerol in water.
Glycerol is used to produce nitroglycerin, which is an essential ingredient of various explosives such as dynamite, gelignite, and propellants like cordite.
|colorless liquid (or yellowish tint)
|glycerin, chemical formula C3H8O3
|transparent viscous liquid
|Solubility in water
|Glycerol has three hydroxyl groupsthat are responsible for its solubility in water and its hygroscopic nature.
Insoluble in fixed and volatile oils.
|Glycerol is generally obtained from plant and animal sources where it occurs as triglycerides. Triglycerides are esters of glycerol with long-chain carboxylic acids. The hydrolysis, saponification, or transesterification of these triglycerides produces glycerol as well as the fatty acid derivative.
Triglycerides can be saponified with sodium hydroxide to give glycerol and fatty sodium salt or soap.
Although usually not cost-effective, glycerol can be produced by various routes from propylene. The epichlorohydrin process is the most important; it involves the chlorination of propylene to give allyl chloride, which is oxidized with hypochlorite to dichlorohydrins, which reacts with a strong base to give epichlorohydrin. This epichlorohydrin is then hydrolyzed to give glycerol.