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The Versatility of Glycerol

Food, Cosmetics & Explosives


© Compound Interest

Food, Cosmetics & Explosives

Look on the ingredients label of many different cosmetic or personal care products, and glycerol (often also called glycerin or glycerine) is commonly present. It’s also found in a variety of food products, as well as in some pharmaceutical products, so what’s the reason for its inclusion?

Glycerol is a carbon-based compound, containing three hydroxyl (OH) groups, and at room temperature is a viscous liquid, colourless and odourless, with a sweet taste. It’s produced as one of the by-products of soap-making, which involves the treatment of vegetable or animal fats with strong alkaline solutions; the production of biodiesel is also a process which produces glycerol as a side product. Synthetically, glycerol can be produced from propene, a three carbon alkene. These three methods combined contribute to the estimated 950,000 tons of glycerol that are produced annually in the US & Europe alone.

  • humectant
  • thickening agents
  • food
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