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Carboxymethyl cellulose (CMC) is a water-soluble anionic linear polymer. In food, pharmaceutical and cosmetic applications, highly purified types (99.5%+) are required and are referred to as cellulose gum.
Technical grades (90-99.5%) are used in adhesives, coatings, pulp and paper, textiles and other industrial applications. Industrial (50-90%) grades of CMC, which contain large amounts of sodium chloride and sodium glycolate, are used in a number of detergent, mining and petroleum outlets.
Commercial products come in some 500 different grades differing on impurity level, molecular weight, Food and Drug Agency regulation, degree of substitution (DS) and several other factors. The DS level can range from 0.4 to 1.4 but most products have a DS of 0.7. Viscosity ranges from 6000 centiPoise (cP) in 1% solution to 10 cP in 2% solution.
About 28% of global CMC is used in food and beverages, 14% in detergent/laundry applications, 11% in oilfield drilling fluids, 7% in coatings, 7% in drugs and toothpaste. Some 5% is used in cosmetic and personal care, 5% in pulp and paper, 4% in adhesives and 4% in textile, printing and dyeing.
Global capacity stood at 395 000 tonne/year in 2004, according to TranTech, with 176 000 tonne/year in western Europe, 96 000 tonne/year in Asia-Pacific, 33 600 tonne/year in Japan, 23 000 tonne/year in the US and 21 800 tonne/year in Asia/Middle East. The remaining capacity is located in Latin America, Mexico, eastern Europe and South Africa. Consumption is split 31.7% in Asia-Pacific, 17.5% in western Europe, 12.1% in the US and 8.7% in eastern Europe.
A high volume of imported and exported material flows between the various world regions and western Europe tops the list with exports of nearly 100 000 tonne/year.