What makes glycerin explosive

Structural formula
Surname Glycerin
other names
  • Glycerol
  • 1,2,3 propanetriol
  • Propanetriol
Molecular formula C.3H8O3 or C3H5(OH)3
CAS number 56-81-5
Brief description colorless, very sweet tasting liquid
Molar mass 92.10 g mol–1
Physical state liquid
density 1.26 g cm–3
Melting point 18.2 ° C
boiling point 290 ° C (with decomposition)
Vapor pressure

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Completely miscible with water, readily soluble in ethanol, poorly in non-polar solvents

safety instructions

50 mg m–3[2]


4090 mg kg–1 (Mouse, oral) [3]

As far as possible and customary, SI units are used. Unless otherwise noted, the data given apply to standard conditions.

  Glycerin (or Glycerol, also glycerin) is the common name and common name of Propanetriol or. Propane-1,2,3-triol and represents a trihydric alcohol. The name "Glycerol" was introduced because it was the correct ending -oil for an alcohol (the ending -in is reserved for alkynes). Other possible isomers of propanetriol such as propane-1,1,2-triol would not be referred to as glycerin or glycerol.

Chemical properties

The IUPAC name of glycerin is propane-1,2,3-triol. Sometimes the misnomer 1,2,3-trihydroxypropane is used. At room temperature, glycerine is a colorless, odorless, viscous and hygroscopic liquid that tastes sweet. Its viscosity and sweet taste also led to its name, derived from gr. glykýs = sweet and lat. cera = wax originates. The origin of glycerine can be different: petrochemical or vegetable.

Glycerine has a viscosity of 1480 mPas and a refractive index of 1.474 (lit.). The enthalpy of formation of glycerol is: ΔHf0 = -669 kJ / mol


Glycerine is a very versatile substance. Among other things, it is contained in cosmetics as a moisturizer (because it binds water), can be used as an antifreeze, lubricant and plasticizer and is required in the manufacture of plastics, microchips, dyes and toothpaste.

Shisha tobacco is often added with glycerine afterwards to keep it moist or to give it back its original moisture. This creates more and denser smoke (see below).

Glycerine is used in medicine as a drug to treat cerebral edema (tablet or infusion). In the form of suppositories containing glycerine, it serves as an osmotic laxative in the rectum; it also softens the stool itself as a liquid.

Glycerin is also used as a food additive as a humectant (e.g. for dates or chewing gum), and is called here E 422.

Glycerine is the basic structure in all fats (triglycerides). In this case the glycerine is triple esterified with fatty acids.

The reaction with concentrated nitric acid and concentrated sulfuric acid produces glycerol trinitrate, a dangerous explosive known as "nitroglycerine", which can be further processed into dynamite.

Glycerine forms white smoke when exposed to heat. When heated under a lack of oxygen, it decomposes into the aldehyde propenal, which is readily soluble in water (267 g / l), which is also known as acrylaldehyde or acrolein (harmful and poisonous).

Due to the significantly lower prices at times, new areas of application for glycerine are being sought. In addition to combustion to generate energy, use as an additional nutrient medium (cosubstrate) in biogas plants to generate biogas is a promising alternative. With high feed prices, glycerine is also attracting more and more interest as feed for cows and pigs.


Glycerine is produced in the manufacture of fatty acids in oleochemicals. In recent years, new amounts of glycerine have come onto the market, which are produced in the production of biodiesel. A distinction is usually made between 80% raw glycerine and 99.5% glycerine, also known as pharmaceutical grade.


  1. abc BGIA GESTIS substance database: http://www.hvbg.de/d/bia/gestis/stoffdb/index.html. 29 Sep 2006
  2. http://www.dfg.de/aktuelles_presse/reden_stellunghaben/download/mak2006.pdf
  3. Glycerine at ChemIDplus

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