Monday, 29 August 2011

Let them eat wood

Cellulose - from Wikipedia

In the early days of my 'career', I was involved with the production of cellulose ethers. These are cellulose derivatives - materials made my chemically modifying the structure of natural cellulose found in wood and plant material.

The cellulose ethers we produced were made from wood and we produced various grades and types for a range of different markets. Mostly we produced it in the form of an off-white powder which if I remember rightly has an odour rather like vanilla.

When you add water to cellulose ethers, they form a thick gel like wallpaper paste. In fact much wallpaper paste is cellulose ether with one or two additives such as an anti-mould agent. Our products were used for all kinds of things from wallpaper paste, detergent thickeners, additives for concrete to make it more workable, drilling mud additives - and cakes.

We sold a food-grade version which could be added to sponge cakes to make the texture light, yet stable. I always found it odd to think of people eating cakes made partly from a material derived from wood. I'm not sure if it cellulose ethers are still used in that way - the time I'm writing of was forty years ago.


James Higham said...

Rivetting, AKH, simply rivetting.

Ross said...

What would cellulose appear as in the ingredients list on a packet?

A K Haart said...

JH - excellent.

R - it would appear as an E number in the range 460–469 (thickeners and emulsifiers.