Cellophane, invented in the early 1900s, has now blossomed to be used in all aspects of our lives; from cooking, food protection, to wrapping presents. The invention of cellophane was an accident that has been incredibly useful. Today, food packaging, tape and even medical supplies owe their existence to the invention of cellophane.
In 1908, a Swiss chemist, Jacques Brandenberger, was attempting to make a stain-proof tablecloth while working in a French textile factory. He coated the tablecloth with a viscose film but soon realized that no one would buy these "plastic" cloths. He did realize that this viscose film held other possibilities. Ten years later, he had developed a machine that would produce what he called "cellophane'"-- "cello" from cellulose and "phane" from "diaphane," which is French for "transparent." In 1919, cellophane was publicly distributed and, in 1927, the film was improved with a waterproof lacquer.
Raw cellulose is the basic building block for the creation of cellophane. The raw cellulose is treated with an alkali, such as sodium hydroxide, and is then mixed with carbon sulfide. This mixture forms viscose, which is then aged for several days. After the viscose has aged, it is pushed through a slit into a dilute acid solution. After the cellulose dissolves, a precipitate forms, which is the regenerated cellulose known as cellophane.
Cellophane was originally created in attempt to create a stain-proof tablecloth. The idea quickly blossomed in to a clear wrap covering that could contain and restrain materials, such as in packaging. In 1927, a waterproof lacquer was added to the film that allowed it to be used to preserve food, since it was both airtight and waterproof. Today cellophane is used in food packaging, gift wrapping and box packing and has many other applications.
Cellophane, when used properly, is not dangerous. However, many people fail to use materials correctly. The biggest hazard that cellophane exhibits is the danger of suffocation. Due to the airtight nature of cellophane, breathing it in or having it cover your airways can cause suffocation, especially in young children and pets. Burning cellophane produces a smoke similar to that of burning wood, which is not deadly but can be harmful to those with weak lungs.
Cellulose is a long chain of sugar molecules, which are linked together in such a way that they are incredibly strong. Cellulose is the main building block of plant cell walls, as well as many textiles and paper. The chain of sugar molecules is made up of glucose links, which have hydroxyl groups sprouting from the chain. These chains wind together, linking the hydroxyl groups, to form a semi-braided strand with immense durability.