Types of Glycerin

Glycerin is an organic alcohol with a sweet taste and slippery, viscous feel. Used in cosmetics, food, industry, medicine and pharmaceuticals, natural and synthetic glycerins are chemically identical. According to the 2008 Glycerin Market Analysis Report from the U.S. Soy Bean Export Council Inc., sales of natural glycerin have outpaced those of synthetic glycerin by 30 times. This is due to a glut of natural glycerin as a by-product of biodiesel, soap and fatty acid production.

From soybeans come sweeteners.

Because glycerin is very hygroscopic, it is added to foods, especially baked goods like energy and protein bars, to preserve moistness. Its taste makes it a superb sweetener because it has a low glycemic index. Glycerin from vegetable oils and synthetic glycerin are kosher and halal. The viscosity of glycerin gives it an antibacterial property. In soaps and cosmetics glycerin serves as a lubricant and moisturizer.

Synthetic Glycerin

When petroleum is distilled, propylene comes off as a top fraction. Glycerin is made by adding chlorine to the molecule and then hydrolyzing the trichloropropane produced. Synthetic glycerin is used in exacting applications in biotechnology and pharmaceuticals because of its 99.7 percent purity. According to the Glycerin Market Analysis Report, prescription and over-the-counter drugs were initially formulated with synthetic glycerin and received FDA approval as such. To change to natural glycerin would entail new FDA approval processes.

Natural Glycerin from Soap Manufacture

Hydrolysis of animal or vegetable lipids with sodium hydroxide produces fatty acid soap and glycerin. Until recently, this process produced the highest volume of natural glycerin. Because of contamination with the parent compounds, the crude material is distilled at a refinery.

Natural Glycerin from Biodiesel

Recent interest in biodiesel fuel from renewable sources of vegetable oil, waste cooking oil and beef tallow has created a market glut of glycerin. Biodiesel is prepared by adding methanol to the oil/fat source. The fatty acid portion of the molecule is esterified to biodiesel, and glycerin is produced as a byproduct. Crude glycerin is distilled and purified to a possible 99.5 percent purity with ion exchange resins. Research today is focused on using lipids from algae or bacteria to produce biodiesel and glycerin.

Load Comments

Copyright © 2019 Leaf Group Ltd. Use of this web site constitutes acceptance of the LIVESTRONG.COM Terms of Use , Privacy Policy and Copyright Policy . The material appearing on LIVESTRONG.COM is for educational use only. It should not be used as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. LIVESTRONG is a registered trademark of the LIVESTRONG Foundation. The LIVESTRONG Foundation and LIVESTRONG.COM do not endorse any of the products or services that are advertised on the web site. Moreover, we do not select every advertiser or advertisement that appears on the web site-many of the advertisements are served by third party advertising companies.