Cellulose Ether is derived from Cellulose and is a water-soluble compound used in several industries. It finds its usage mainly in the construction, food, pharmaceutical, and cosmetics industries. Specifically, Cellulose Ether is primarily used in the construction sector as it acts as a binder, thickener, and water retention agent in construction. There are different grades of Cellulose Ether, which have their applicability and properties. The two primary grades of Cellulose Ether HPMC (Hydroxypropyl Methyl Cellulose) and MHEC (Methyl Hydroxyethyl Cellulose) have varied similarities, yet one is more preferred than the other in recent days.
Nowadays, MHEC grade of Cellulose Ether is more preferred than the HPMC grade in the construction industry. Though, both are being utilized widely for increasing bond strength and water retention capacity of a dry mixture of cement and gypsum, few properties differentiate them. The first property differentiating MHEC from HPMC is gel temperature; the gel temperature of MHEC is higher than that of MHEC. The gel temperature of HPMC is around 60°c – 70°c, which varies as per its content and production technique; however, the gel temperature of MHEC is generally more than 80°C, which makes it a better alternative. MHEC has better thermal stability owing to its high gel temperature, causing better water retention capacity during summers in South Asian Countries.
Furthermore, MHEC has a more significant number of Hydrophilic groups in its structure, eventually leading to more hydrophilicity than the HPMC grade. Having more Hydrophilic groups makes MHEC better in water retention, and hence it is preferred more. In addition, the prices of MHEC grades have been lesser than that of HPMC, making them more economical to use. In India, the prices of Cellulose Ether, with respective to all grades, have been marginally increasing from the first week of April.
According to SLEOCHEM, “MHEC grade would be chosen over HPMC grade in countries including India as summers have already approached. Construction industries would go for having cellulose ether with higher gel temperature and better hydrophilicity. Furthermore, the Indian domestic market of Cellulose Ether is most likely to showcase stagnant to a marginal rise in the prices.”