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Glycerol, from ingredient to platform chemical

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Called “man’s most versatile chemical servant”, by Lesser in 1949, (1) glycerol has lately become the main platform biochemical of the chemical industry (2). Lesser was mentioning 1583 commercal direct uses for glycerol due to its unique chemical, phisical and biological properties: humectant or hygroscopic agent, vehicle, solvent, sweetening agent, emollient, lubricant, softening and demulcent agent, antifreeze, refrigerant, preservative and many other.

“Less than a year ago”, proudly continued the chemist of the Glycerine’s Producers Association based in New York City, “the production of synthetic glycerin from petroleum gases was begun on a commercial scale, thereby yielding additional supplies of this widely demanded material” (1).

The “petroleum gases” was propene, and the production started in 1948 in Houston, Texas, was the high-temperature chlorination of propene to allyl chloride followed by hydrolysis commercialized in Germany by I.G. Farben at two production sites (Oppau and Heydebreck) in 1943.

Seventy years later, all synthetic glycerol prod ...