How is glycerol produced?-WorldOfChemicals

Glycerol: Properties, Production and Uses

Category : General Chemicals
Published by : Data Research Analyst,

Glycerol which is also known as glycerine, glycerin or propanetriol is a polyol compound. The derivation of the gly- and glu- prefixes for glycerol and for sugars is derived from a Greek word glukus which means sweet.

It is a trihydroxy sugar alcohol which acts as an intermediate in carbohydrate and lipid metabolism. The formula of glycerol is C3H8O3.

Properties of Glycerol

  • Glycerol is a colorless, odorless and viscous liquid which is sweet in taste and is non-toxic.

  • Boiling point: 290 degree Celsius, melting point: 17.9 degree Celsius.

  • Molecular weight: 92.094 g/mol, relative density: 1.261 g/ml.

  • Solubility: Insoluble in volatile oils and fixed oils, in water it is miscible.

  • Glycerol is weakly acidic in nature and is able to react with alkaline hydroxide.

Production of Glycerol

Natural production:

Glycerol is mostly obtained from plants and animal sources where it is present as triglycerides. Triglycerides are glycerol esters having carboxylic acids of a long chain. The hydrolysis, saponification or transesterification of these triglycerides gives out glycerol.

Plants sources typically include soybeans or palm trees. Another source is animal-derived tallow.

Synthetic production:

Glycerol can also be produced by various routes from propylene, which is a three carbon petrochemical compound with double bonds. The most important process is epichlorohydrin, which includes propylene chlorination giving allyl chloride, which is then oxidized with hypochlorite to dichlorohydrins, which gives epichlorohydrin by reacting with a strong base. Then this epichlorohydrin is then hydrolyzed to give glycerol.


1.Food industry: Glycerol serves as a sweetener, solvent, and humectants in food and beverages and can also help in preserving food. It is also used in commercially prepared low-fat foods as filler and in liqueurs as a thickening agent. Glycerol is also used along with water to preserve certain types of leaves. It is also used as a sugar substitute.

2.Pharmaceutical and personal-care: Glycerol is utilized in pharmaceutical and personal care products preparations, majorly as a means of developing smoothness, for providing lubrication and as humectants. In tablets dosage, it is used a holding agent and it is also a component of glycerin soap. Glycerol is found in cough syrups, elixirs, toothpaste, mouthwashes, products of skin care and water-based personal care lubricants.

3.E-cigarette liquid: Vegetable glycerine with propylene glycol, in one of the common component of e-cigarette liquid. This glycerol produces the aerosol when heated with an atomizer, delivering nicotine to the consumer.

4.For anti-freezing: Glycerol was used as an anti-freezing agent for automotive applications in past before getting replaced by ethylene glycol. Glycerol is a common compound of solvents for enzymatic reagents in the labs. It is also used as a cryoproctectant.

5.Chemical intermediate: Glycerol is used in the production of nitroglycerin. Allyl iodide can be synthesized by utilization of elemental phosphorus and iodine on glycerol. Crude glycerol for a renewable energy source as an additive to biomass when burnt or gasified is being examined.

6.Film industry: When filming scenes which involve water to stop drying out of areas too quickly glycerol are used by the film industry.