Cellophane

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Cellophane

Cellophane is a thin, transparent sheet made of regenerated cellulose. Its low permeability to air, oils, greases, bacteria, and water makes it useful for food packaging. Cellophane was invented by Swiss chemist Jacques E. Brandenberger in the early 20th century. The invention was inspired by a wine spill on a restaurant tablecloth, prompting Brandenberger to develop a clear, protective film that could be applied to fabric. After several years of experimentation, he created cellophane in 1908.

History[edit | edit source]

The development of cellophane began with Brandenberger's attempt to create a waterproof fabric. However, his experiments led him to develop a transparent, protective film instead. By 1912, he had perfected the material, which he named "cellophane," from the words "cellulose" and "diaphane" (meaning transparent). The first commercial production of cellophane was in France in 1913 by the company La Cellophane. The material's unique properties quickly made it popular for packaging many types of products, especially food items.

In the 1930s, the DuPont company acquired the rights to manufacture cellophane in the United States, which led to significant advancements in the material's production and treatment processes. These improvements included the development of moisture-proof cellophane, which greatly expanded its use in the food industry.

Properties and Uses[edit | edit source]

Cellophane is known for its transparency, gloss, and resistance to moisture (when coated), oils, and bacteria. These properties make it an ideal packaging material for a variety of products, including confectionery, tobacco, and perishable goods. Cellophane is also biodegradable, which has renewed interest in its use as an environmentally friendly alternative to petroleum-based plastics.

Despite its advantages, the use of cellophane has declined with the advent of cheaper and more versatile plastic films. However, it remains valued in certain applications for its unique properties, such as its breathability and biodegradability.

Environmental Impact[edit | edit source]

Cellophane is made from cellulose, usually derived from wood or cotton, making it a renewable resource. It is biodegradable and compostable under the right conditions, breaking down into carbon dioxide and water within several months in a composting environment. This contrasts with many synthetic polymers, which can take hundreds of years to decompose and can accumulate in the environment as plastic pollution.

Manufacturing Process[edit | edit source]

The manufacturing process of cellophane involves dissolving cellulose in alkali and carbon disulfide to form a viscose solution. This solution is then extruded through a narrow slit into an acid bath, where it regenerates into cellulose and forms a continuous sheet of cellophane. The cellophane is then washed, bleached, and sometimes coated to improve its barrier properties.

Conclusion[edit | edit source]

Cellophane has played a significant role in the packaging industry due to its unique properties. While its popularity has waned in favor of more cost-effective and versatile plastics, its biodegradability and renewability continue to make it an important material in efforts to reduce environmental impact.

Cellophane Resources
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Contributors: Prab R. Tumpati, MD