Cellulose is the main component of plant cell walls. It occupies about 50% of plant dry matter.

Cotton wool is one of many forms of pure cellulose.

Transformation to nitrocellulose

Cellulose is a macromolecule with many alcohol functions. An inorganic esterification with nitric acid leads to the nitrocellulose:

Synthesis and washing

The synthesis involves three steps: - Cold nitration with a mixture of nitric acid and sulfuric acid. - Washing with water

- Drying in a dessicator:


The combustion of nitrocellulose is much stronger than that of ordinary cellulose:



Nitrocellulose is used today primarily as a replacement for explosive black powder. It is found under the names of gun cotton or pyroxyle.