Astonishing Glycerine / C3H8O3

A versatile and often-used chemical substance, glycerine is sometimes referred to as glycerol or glycerin. It is a viscous liquid with a sweet flavor that is colorless, odorless, and non-toxic. It is liquid at room temperature. Glycerine is classified as a polyol, which indicates that it has several hydroxyl (-OH) groups. Glycerol is a hygroscopic substance that is miscible with water due to its three hydroxyl groups. Glycerides, a class of lipids, contain the glycerol backbone. It is a substance with the chemical formula C3H8O3, which stands for three carbon atoms, eight hydrogen atoms, and three oxygen atoms.

It is possible to obtain glycerine from both plant and animal sources. Historically, it was made from the waste of making soap, which involved hydrolyzing fats or oils to produce glycerine and soap molecules. However, triglycerides from vegetable oils or animal fats are hydrolyzed to create glycerine using modern industrial production techniques.

Physical properties:

  • Density: 1.26 g/cm3.
  • Solubility: It is highly soluble in water, alcohol, and other polar solvents.
  • Melting Point: Its melting point is about 17.8oC
  • Boiling Point: Its boiling point is 290oC
  • Vapor Pressure: Low vapor pressure
  • Molecular Weight: The molecular weight is approximately 92.09 g/mol1.
  • Refractive Index: Approximately 1.47, which determines how light bends when passing through the liquid.

Chemical properties:

1. Stability: Glycerine is a stable substance under normal circumstances and does not easily decompose on its own.

2. Combustibility: It is not flammable, but at high temperatures, it can break down and release flammable vapors.

3. pH Level: It has a pH that is near 7, which indicates that it is neither acidic nor basic.

4. Reactivity: In particular situations, glycerine can react with certain compounds including acids, oxidizing agents, and strong alkalis.

5. Hygroscopicity: Due to its high affinity for water and ability to take in moisture from its surroundings, glycerine possesses hygroscopic qualities.

6. Solvent properties: Glycerine’s properties as a solvent allow it to dissolve a variety of substances, including polar and non-polar ones.

Synthesis/ Production:

Glycerine can be synthesized through various methods. Here are some detailed synthetic methods:

Fats and Oils Hydrolysis:

This is the main process of making glycerine in which triglycerides, which include fats and oils, react with steam and acid or base catalyst.

  • In the acid hydrolysis procedure, powerful acids like sulfuric acid (H2SO4) or hydrochloric acid (HCl) are heated to break down fats or oils. With the breakdown of the triglycerides’ ester linkages, glycerol and fatty acids are produced.
  • During the base hydrolysis procedure, powerful alkalis like potassium hydroxide (KOH) or sodium hydroxide (NaOH) are used to heat fats or oils. Saponification, another name for this process, results in the production of soap and glycerol.


Another process for making glycerine is transesterification. Ester groups are exchanged between the molecules in this process. Normally, a catalyst like sodium or potassium hydroxide is present when triglycerides from vegetable oils or animal fats combine with an alcohol like methanol or ethanol. Along with glycerol, the reaction also yields biodiesel in the form of methyl or ethyl esters. To separate the glycerol from the esters, additional processing might be applied to the combination.


Fermentation techniques can also be used to make glycerine. Glycerol is produced with the use of microorganisms, such as specific strains of bacteria or yeast. This technique involves cultivating particular microorganisms in a suitable medium that contains sugar. Glycerol is a byproduct of the bacteria’ metabolism of the sugars during fermentation. Glycerol can be produced by further processing and purifying the fermenting mixture.

Chemical reactions:

  • Esterification: Glycerine can be converted into glycerol esters by esterification reactions with organic acids. In this reaction, an acid group from the organic acid replaces one or more of the hydroxyl groups in glycerine. Usually catalyst (acidic), like H2SO4 or p-toluenesulfonic acid, is used for this process.
  • Dehydration: It can go through dehydration reactions at high temperatures to create acrolein, a substance used to make plastics, fibers, and other compounds. Normal conditions for dehydrating glycerine include the presence of catalysts like alumina or silica.
  • Oxidation: It can be oxidized to yield a number of different chemicals. For instance, glyceric acid can be produced when nitric acid and glycerine are combined. Dihydroxyacetone, a result of the oxidation of glycerine, is a step in the manufacturing of a number of drugs and cosmetics.
  • Hydrogenolysis: Glycerine’s C-C bonds can be broken through hydrogenolysis processes. Products from this reaction include propanediol and ethylene glycol, two crucial molecules utilized in the manufacture of polymers and other industrial processes.
  • Combustion: When there is oxygen present, glycerine can undergo combustion processes. Burning it results in the emission of heat energy as well as the main combustion byproducts of carbon dioxide and water.

Versatile applications:

Some of the key applications of glycerine are following:

  • Before being superseded by ethylene glycol, which has a lower freezing point, glycerol was once utilized as an anti-freeze for automobile purposes.
  • Due to its abilities as a flexible solvent, stabilizer, and humectant, glycerine is widely employed in the pharmaceutical business. It is a component of topical creams, ointments, cough syrups, and oral syrups. Glycerin is an FDA-approved medical treatment for wounds and has some antiviral and mild antibacterial properties. Additionally, it can be found in pharmaceuticals like suppositories and eye drops.
  • Additionally, glycerine is used to make biofuels, as an ingredient in e-liquid for electronic cigarettes, and in some kinds of inks for printing.
  • Due to its moisturizing and emollient qualities, glycerine is a frequently used ingredient in personal care and cosmetic products. It is a well-liked ingredient in lotions, creams, soaps, shampoos, and conditioners since it aids in the skin’s ability to retain moisture. Additionally utilized in cosmetics as a lubricant, thickening, and humectant is glycerine.
  • Glycerine is utilized as a food ingredient and sweetener in the food and beverage sector. It tastes delicious, has no odor, and is non-toxic. It is frequently found in dairy products, frostings, baked goods, candies, and beverages. It functions as a preservative, texture enhancer, and moisture retainer in a variety of food products. Additionally, it is advised as an additive when using polyol sweeteners with a cooling effect like erythritol and xylitol because of its heating effect in the mouth if the cooling effect is not wanted.
  • Glycerine is substituted for glycol, which has been known to irritate skin if exposed for an extended period of time, in the fluid used in fog machines to create theatrical smoke and fog.
  • Glycerine is used in many different industrial processes. Paint, dye, and ink manufacture all utilize it as a solvent. Explosives, lubricants, antifreeze, and hydraulic fluids are all made with glycerine. In addition to serving as a plasticizer in the plastics sector, it is a crucial component in the creation of polyurethane foams.
  • Various chemical intermediates are produced using glycerine as a precursor. It can undergo additional processing to provide materials like propylene glycol, ethylene glycol, and glycerol esters. These substances are used in the manufacture of polymers, solvents, resins, and other chemicals.
  • In the tobacco industry, it is frequently utilized as a humectant and moisturizing agent. It assists in keeping tobacco moist, avoiding drying out, and preserving flavor and aroma.

Safety considerations:

When handling and using glycerine, it is important to follow safety precautions.

  1. When handling glycerine, put on the proper protection equipments. This aids in shielding the skin, eyes, and body from potential exposure and touch.
  2. To avoid the accumulation of vapors or fumes, make sure there is enough ventilation in places where glycerine is handled or stored. Use ventilation systems or work in locations with natural ventilation if you must work in confined spaces.
  3. Glycerine should be stored and handled with care. Labelled, suitable containers should be used for storage. Observe any special storage guidelines that the manufacturer may have provided. Containers should be kept away from heat sources, open flames, and incompatible materials. Keep glycerine away from strong acids or oxidizing chemicals.
  4. Although glycerine is not flammable, it can assist combustion when heated up or when it is ignited by a flame. Consider taking standard fire safety measures, such as maintaining fire extinguishers close by and being aware of the best fire-fighting strategies for the environment.
  5. It is typically regarded as harmless when used appropriately, but ingesting or inhaling high amounts might have negative effects on your health. Glycerine should not be consumed or inhaled directly. Seek emergency medical assistance if you accidentally eat something or breathe something in.
  6. If there is a spill or leak, confine the area to stop the glycerin from spreading. Use the right absorbent materials, such as sand or absorbent pads, to clean up spills. Thoroughly wash up the area and dispose of any contaminated materials in accordance with local laws.


Due to its adaptable qualities and wide range of uses, glycerine plays a vital role in a variety of sectors. It is a valuable element in many consumer and industrial products due to its capacity to moisturize, dissolve, and stabilize different substances.

Does the body contain glycerine or glycerol?

In the liver and adipose tissue, glycerol is a precursor for the formation of triacylglycerols and phospholipids. Mostly glycerol is metabolized in the liver. Since the rate of glycerol absorption by the liver is thought to be a reliable indicator of liver health, glycerol injections can be used as a quick test for liver injury.  

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