In chemistry, the methyl cellulose is a derivative from cellulose and has practically infinite uses, acting as emulsifier of thickener for different items of consumption. In essence, the caustic solution will heat up the cellulose, which is afterwards treated using methyl chloride. The preparation of the substance will influence the end result via the amount of hydroxyl groups replaced in the process. In order to determine the characteristics of the resulted methyl cellulose the factor known as Degree of Substitution will be taken into account. To put it simply, the average value of the stand-in hydroxyl groups for the glucose will determine its properties. In practice, the DS number varies in a range of 1.3 and 2.6 but high-end values can reach 3.0.
The Characteristics of Methyl Cellulose
In a more precise approach, the formula for the methyl cellulose would look like C6H7O2(OH)x(OCH3)y in which y is the DS of the substance and the sum of x and y represent 3, the maxim DS number. The methyl cellulose comes in the form of fine hygroscopic granules which present no odor. In terms of color, the substance granules can vary in a variety of white shades. The paradox of this substance is that while it is easily dissolvable in cold water (meaning up to 40 or 50 degrees Celsius),exposure to water that exceeds these temperatures will force methyl cellulose to take a solid form.
However, determining the lowest critical temperature of the methyl cellulose and consequentially, the temperature at which it will gain the solid form is related to the DS number. To put it simply, methyl cellulose with elevated DS will be less prone to dissolve and the LCST will be lower as well. Once it is dissolved, the substance will increase the viscosity level of the water, eventually transforming it into gel. On a side note, these properties are accountable for the wide range of applications associated with the methyl cellulose.
Methyl Cellulose in Cosmetics
For one thing, the emulsifying and thickening properties of the methyl cellulose have earned this substance a well deserved place in the cosmetic industry. The consistency of such cosmetics as shampoo, soap or even toothpaste is thoroughly boosted. Toothpaste, and in particular the type of toothpaste that comes with several layers of ingredients that are not to interact until the moment you use it, benefits quite a lot from the ability of methyl cellulose in preventing the mixture.
Methyl Cellulose in the Food Industry
The same thing goes for the food and beverage industry, as the substance is quite potent in maintaining different types of liquids apart and maintaining the thickness of sauce, dressing or ice cream. It is important to note that methyl cellulose is just as effective in averting the formation of ice crystals in the aliments that are subjected to frequent re-refrigeration procedures. One may even go as far as to say that the food industry would have a significantly more difficult job in maintaining the freshness of refrigerated aliments as well as their consistency if it were not for methyl cellulose.
Methyl Cellulose in Pharmaceutics
As far as the lubrication properties of the methyl cellulose are concerned, the pharmaceutical has tapped quite a bit in the potential of this substance. The lubrication of this odorless solution and the fact that it does not stain have conveyed it the ability to act as artificially synthesized tears as well as saliva for patients that experience a malfunction of the associated glands. Moreover, it is the ideal lubricant for sensitive surgical techniques.
Due to the water absorption abilities of the methyl cellulose, it has been successfully employed in anti-constipation medication. The fact that it is not digested by the body and that it is not toxic have granted it the ability to voyage along the digestive tract and reach the clogged area carrying the necessary amount of water that can ensure smooth bowel movements.
Methyl Cellulose in the Special Effects Industry
Methyl cellulose has been successfully used in widely popular Hollywood creations such as Terminator and Ghost Busters, in order to simulate goo and molten materials. Since it is not toxic for the human body, spewing up the colorful goo made from methyl cellulose was the ideal solution for an otherwise complex type of special effects.