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Uses of Glycerol

Last updated date: 23rd May 2024
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Glycerol Meaning

Glycerol is a naturally occurring chemical and is used as a medicine in the treatment of burns and wounds. It is a clear colourless, odourless, sweet-tasting liquid that is viscous in nature and belongs to the alcohol family of organic compounds. It is generally obtained from plant and animal sources where it occurs in triglycerides. 

Glycerol is present in a small amount in human tissues in the form of trivalent alcohol. It is a volatile liquid and if it is left outside in contact with the environment it will vaporize even at room temperature. Glycerol is biodegradable and when exposed to the environment it will distribute itself in air, soil, or sediment. 

Along with these advantages, there are some disadvantages of glycerol, It can cause headaches, dizziness, nausea when taken directly. It can also cause a skin rash, redness, or burns to the skin if applied directly. It can cause serious damage to RBCs if injected. Therefore, the use of glycerol should be done under medical supervision only.

Glycerol Structure

The molecular formula of Glycerol is: C3H8O3

It is a trifunctional compound i.e. three alcohol groups are present on three carbon atoms and its IUPAC name is 1,2,3− propane triol.

Density: 1.26 g/cm³

Molar mass: 92.09382 g/mol

Boiling point: 290 °C

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Glycerol Uses

Medical Uses:

  • Glycerol is commonly used to relieve occasional constipation, improving hydration and performance in athletes, and improving skin conditions. 

  • It can be used for the treatment of wounds and types of burns.  it is to be remembered that glycerol cannot be used for the treatment of third-degree burns. 

  • Another important application of glycerol is in blood banks, where the compound is employed for the preservation of RBC before they are frozen for storage.

  • Using a hair lotion containing glycerol 3 times per week can reduce dandruff by a small amount and moisturize the scalp. It is mostly used in glycerine soap.

  • It is also used in shaving creams and eye drops for a similar purpose.

  • Applying a product that contains glycerol to the skin can reduce the thickness of scales and itching in people with xerosis.

Other Uses of Glycerol:

  • In the food industry, glycerol is used in order to retain moisture.

  • A mixture of water and glycerol can be used to preserve the leaves of certain plants. 

  • Athletes use glycerol to keep themselves away from becoming dehydrated.

  • It is widely used as a raw material in the production of nitroglycerin.

  • It is used as softening agents in baked goods, plasticizers in shortening, and stabilizers in ice cream.

  • Glycerol is also used commonly in the film industry during the filming where water is involved mostly. In those situations, glycerol helps stop the areas from rapidly drying out.

  • It is used in making many modern protective coatings like automotive enamels and exterior house paints.

Did You Know?

Glycerol and glycerin are two different solutions that have the same chemical compound but their nomenclature is different.

Glycerin is the commercial name of glycerol that contains 95% of glycerol. Glycerin cannot be used interchangeably with glycerol. Glycerin is a less pure form of glycerol. Glycerin is widely used in cosmetics, other than fragrances it is the most used product in the cosmetic industry. There are numerous products that include glycerin in them, especially in moisturizers and lotions. The pure form of glycerin is readily available in the market and people purchase it for use directly.

FAQs on Uses of Glycerol

Q1. What is the difference between Glycerol and Glycerine?

Ans. Some common difference between Glycerol and Glycerine is:

  • Glycerol is a simple polyol compound. It is available in pure form whereas glycerine is a solution that contains 95% of glycerol.

  • Glycerol is used in medication and for internal purposes only. Glycerine is used in cosmetics and external uses.

  • Glycerol is generally not available in the market in its purest form but glycerin can be readily available in the market in a pure form. 

Q2. What are the Advantages of Glycerine?

Ans. There are several advantages of using glycerin on the skin. Eg: It provides hydration to the skin, helps to improve barrier function and skin mechanical properties,  provides protection against skin irritation, also accelerates the healing process, etc. 

Glycerin is a humectant type of moisturizing agent which pulls water from the deeper layers of skin to the uppermost layer of skin that can provide hydration to the upper layer of skin. Glycerin is safe for consumption only up to certain limits and is used for sweetening, thickening, or as a preservative in numerous recipes.

Q3. What is the Key difference between fatty acids and glycerol?

Ans. Glycerol is 3 carbon-containing alcohol and is "triol" because every carbon in glycerol has an alcohol group attached with it also named 1,2,3-propane triol.

Fatty acids, on the other hand, are carboxylic acids containing 2–30 carbon atoms in straight chains, having acidic group COOH attached with them.