Glycerol (/ˈɡlɪsərɒl/; also called glycerine or glycerin) is a simple polyol compound. It is a colorless, odorless, viscous liquid that is sweet-tasting and non-toxic. The glycerol backbone is found in those lipids known as glycerides. Due to having antimicrobial and antiviral properties it is widely used in FDA approved wound and burn treatments. It can also be used as an effective marker to measure liver disease. It is also widely used as a sweetener in the food industry and as a humectant in pharmaceutical formulations. Owing to the presence of three hydroxyl groups, glycerol is miscible with water and is hygroscopic in nature.
Glycerol is used to produce nitroglycerin, which is an essential ingredient of various explosives such as dynamite, gelignite, and propellants like cordite. Reliance on soap-making to supply co-product glycerol made it difficult to increase production to meet wartime demand. Hence, synthetic glycerol processes were national defense priorities in the days leading up to World War II. Nitroglycerin, also known as glyceryl trinitrate (GTN) is commonly used to relieve angina pectoris, taken in the form of sub-lingual tablets, or as an aerosol spray.
An oxidation of glycerol affords mesoxalic acid. Dydrating glycerol affords hydroxyacetone.