Cellophane is a thin, transparent sheet made of regenerated
Cellulose fibers from
wood, cotton, hemp, or other sources are dissolved in alkaliand carbon disulfideto make a solution called viscose, which is then extruded through a slit into an acidbath to reconvert the viscose into cellulose. A similar process, using a hole (a spinneret) instead of a slit, is used to make a fibre called rayon. Chemically, cellophane, rayon and cellulose are polymers of glucoseand contain the chemical elements carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen.
Cellophane was invented in 1908 by
Jacques E. Brandenberger, a Swiss textiles engineer. After witnessing a wine spill on a restaurant tablecloth, Brandenberger initially had the idea to develop a clear coating for cloth to make it waterproof. He experimented, and came up with a way to apply liquid viscose to cloth, but found the resultant combination of cloth and viscose film too stiff to be of use. However, the clear film easily separated from the backing cloth, and he abandoned his original idea as the possibilities of the new material became apparent. Cellophane's low permeability to air, oils and greases, and bacteria makes it useful for food packaging. Whitman'scandy company initiated use of cellophane for candywrapping in the United Statesin 1912 for their Whitman's Sampler. They remained the largest user of imported cellophane from France until nearly 1924, when DuPontbuilt the first cellophane manufacturing plant in the US. In 1935 British Cellophane Ltdwas established, a joint venture between La Cellophane SA and Courtaulds, which opened a major factory producing cellophane in Columbus, Ohioin 1937. Cellophane is also used to wrap gift baskets and flower bouquets.
Cellulose film has been manufactured continuously since the mid-1930s and is still used today. As well as packaging a variety of food items, there are also industrial applications, such as a base for such self-adhesive tapes as
Sellotapeand Scotch Tape, a semi-permeable membrane in a certain type of battery, as dialysis tubing(Visking tubing) and as a release agent in the manufacture of fibreglassand rubberproducts. The word "cellophane" has been genericized, and is often used informally to refer to a wide variety of plasticfilm products, even those not made of cellulose. [ [http://www.cellobags-clear.com Modern petro based Cello Bags] ]
Cellophane sales have dwindled since the 1960s due to use of alternative packaging options, and the fact that
viscoseis becoming less common because of the polluting effects of carbon disulfideand other by-products of the process. However, the fact that cellophane is 100% biodegradablehas increased its popularity as a food wrapping. [ [http://www.pak-sel.com/sub1.htm at Pak-Sel Inc] Accessed March 2007.] [ [http://greenearthofficesupply.stores.yahoo.net/biodcelbagfo.html Biodegradable cellophane] at Green Earth Office Supply. Accessed March 2007.] It is also used in the making of bendy rulers, although those are not common.
Jacques E. Brandenberger
* [http://inventors.about.com/library/inventors/blcellophane.htm Cellophane Invention]
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