What is nitrocellulose?

Pierre Jelenc pcj1 at konichiwa.cc.columbia.edu
Tue Apr 12 20:35:09 EST 1994

In article <2o4mqo$ntt at crcnis1.unl.edu>,
m griep <mgriep at unlinfo.unl.edu> wrote:
>What is the chemical structure of nitrocellulose and 
>why do proteins stick to it?
>According to Merck, nitrocellulose (listed under pyroxylin)
>is cellulose tetranitrate.  Merck makes no reference to an 
>ester, besides which it would be impossible to have four anyway.  
>But if it is a salt, surely the cellulose is not that highly 
>charged.  Is it a trapped anion of some sort?

It is definitely a covalent nitrate ester of cellulose. Its closest 
relative is nitroglycerin. It is the same stuff as celluloid (with a 
camphor plasticizer) or smokeless powder in military ammunition. It is 
produced by direct reaction of cotton fibers with nitric acid under 
dehydrating conditions, then dissolved in a mixture of ether and ethanol 
(it is insoluble in either of them alone), and spread into a film or 
precipitated as an amorphous mass.

The tetranitrate refers to 4/cellobiose, not 4/glucose, I suppose.


Pierre Jelenc                        pcj1 at columbia.edu 
                                    Columbia University, New York

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