Free hydroxyl groups on each glucose unit in the cellulose chain, [C6H7O(OH)3]n, helps the cellulose derivatives, to be spun into fibres, spread into a film. Esterification of these hydroxyl groups yields polymeric products having properties different from cellulose itself.
This is prepared by treating cellulose with nitric acid. The fully nitrated compound, [C6H7O(ONO2)3]n, called guncotton, is explosively flammable and is a used as a component of smokeless powder.
Cellulose Acetate, [C6H7O(OAc)3]n :
This is prepared by reaction of cellulose with acetic anhydride and an acid catalyst. The properties of the product vary with the degree of acetylation. An acetone solution of cellulose acetate form filaments, called as acetate rayon can be woven into fabrics.
Viscose Rayon is prepared by formation of an alkali soluble xanthate derivative and can be spun into a fiber after acid quenching.