Ethyl cellulose

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A thermoplastic, colorless powder composed of an ethyl ether of cellulose. Commercial ethyl cellulose (EC) has an ethoxy content of 43-50%. It softens at about 100-140C and is compatible with resins, waxes, oils and plasticizers. Ethyl cellulose forms a tough, flexible, transparent film that is very wear resistant. It is used in food containers; hot-melt adhesives, inks, and as protective coatings for paper and textiles. Ethyl cellulose is rarely used in conservation because it oxidizes readily and is thermally unstable (Feller and Wilt 1990).

Synonyms and Related Terms

EC; ethylcellulose; cellulose ethyl ether; éthylcellulose (Fr.); etil cellulosa (It.); etilcelulose (Port.)

Examples: Ethocel [Dow]; Ethylcellulose [Aqualon]


  • Combustible.

Physical and Chemical Properties

Soluble in esters, alcohols, aromatic hydrocarbons, and chlorinated hydrocarbons. Insoluble in water and glycerol.

Density 1.07-1.18 g/ml
Refractive Index 1.47


General Characteristics of Polymers

Physical Properties for Selected Thermoplastic Resins

Resources and Citations

  • R.Feller, M.Wilt, Evaluation of Cellulose Ethers for Conservation, in Research in Conservation Series, Getty Conservation Institute, 1990.
  • Van Nostrand's Scientific Encyclopedia, Douglas M. Considine (ed.), Van Nostrand Reinhold, New York, 1976
  • Random House, Webster's Encyclopedic Unabridged Dictionary of the English Language, Grammercy Book, New York, 1997
  • Richard S. Lewis, Hawley's Condensed Chemical Dictionary, Van Nostrand Reinhold, New York, 10th ed., 1993
  • The Merck Index, Martha Windholz (ed.), Merck Research Labs, Rahway NJ, 10th edition, 1983 Comment: entry 3828
  • R. J. Gettens, G.L. Stout, Painting Materials, A Short Encyclopaedia, Dover Publications, New York, 1966