It’s clear, it’s handy, and it’s wrapped around my candy. The cellophane wrap is one of the most versatile discoveries of the 1900s. Intended to be a protective textile, the cellophane has since found application in many industries as a packaging material and as a semi-permeable film.
Many people mistake cellophane for plastic. The truth is the two materials are of completely different composition. Plastic is a synthetic or semi-synthetic polymer. In contrast, cellophane is a sheet of regenerated cellulose. The only thing that cellophane and plastic have in common is that both materials are usually made into transparent sheets.
History of cellophane
It was a Swiss chemist named Jacques E. Brandenberger who in the turn of the 20th century developed the first cellophane. He intended the material to be a water-resistant film to protect textile. He experimented on a substance known as viscose to coat cloth, but to his dismay the fabric turned out too stiff and unsuitable for any practical use.
Peeling off the film layer afterwards, he realized that its properties of flexibility and transparency can be used for other purposes. Brandenberger worked on perfecting his invention and in 1912, he patented cellophane. The term was derived from the words “cellulose” and “diaphane”, which means transparent.
US candy manufacturers began importing cellophane that same year to use it for candy wrapper. In 1924, the chemical company DuPont initiated the development of moisture-proof cellophane. By 1927, after a company chemist named William Hale Charch succeeded in moisture-proofing the cellophane, many industries worldwide embraced the new material and began using cellophane for their various packaging needs.
Uses for cellophane
One of the earliest applications for cellophane wrap is for packaging and storage of food products. This specific function of the cellophane remains to this day, even though some industries have turned to plastic for the same purpose. Nevertheless, the use of cellophane as a packaging material extends beyond food products. Almost all consumer products are able to utilize cellophane for packaging.
There are various other applications for cellophane. Adhesive tapes, such as 3M’s Scotch tape, use cellophane as a base for their products. There are those who use printed cellophane for gift wrapping. Cellophane is also used as a semi-permeable barrier for battery cells.
Beauty spas employ cellophane wrap for hair and cellulite treatments. In the realm of medicine, cellophane is also used as semi-permeable tubing for dialysis. With such an impressive track record, people will continue to utilize cellophane as an important material for industry.