What is ethanoic acid?

Ethanoic acid

The acetic acid (CH3COOH), also called ethanoic acid , is the most important of acidic carboxylic . Biologically, acetic acid is an important metabolic intermediate , and it occurs naturally in body fluids and plant juices .

What is ethanoic acid?

It is an organic acid made up of two carbon atoms that can be found as an acetate ion . It is an acid that we can find in vinegar and is also known as acetic acid .

  • Characteristics of ethanoic acid
  • Structure
  • Formula
  • Physical properties of ethanoic acid
  • Chemical properties
  • Uses of ethanoic acid

Characteristics of ethanoic acid

Among the main characteristics of ethanoic acid we have the following:

  • It is produced and excreted by certain bacteria , especially the genus Acetobacter and Clostridium acetobutylicum found in food, water, and soil.
  • It can be produced naturally as fruits and some other foods spoil.
  • Acetic acid has been prepared on an industrial scale by oxidation of acetaldehyde in air , by oxidation of ethanol ( ethyl alcohol), and by oxidation of butane and butene .
  • Today, acetic acid is manufactured using a process developed by the chemical company Monsanto in the 1960s; It involves an iodine and rhodium catalyzed carbonylation of methanol (methyl alcohol).
  • It is an organic acid with two carbon atoms , it can be found in the form of an acetate ion.
  • Acetic acid is found commercially in various concentrations:  glacial acetic acid (99.7% acetic acid, with water being the main impurity),  reagent grade acetic acid (generally containing 36% acetic acid by weight), and as commercial aqueous solutions ( usually have 28, 56, 70, 80, 85 and 90% acetic acid)
  • It is an important bactericide , neutralizer and acidifier . And it is also an ingredient in the manufacture of insecticides and germicides .
  • It must also be handled with great care as it can cause skin burns if its exposure is prolonged, it can cause sore throat , vomiting , diarrhea , abdominal pain and a burning or burning sensation in the digestive tract.


In solid acetic acid, the molecules form chains and the individual molecules are interconnected by hydrogen bonds . They can also be produced in the liquid phase in dilute solutions in non-hydrogen-binding solvents, and to some extent in pure acetic acid, but are altered by hydrogen-binding solvents.

The enthalpy of dissociation of dimers has been estimated at 65.0-66.0 kJ / mol, and the entropy of dissociation at 154-157 J mol-1 K-1.20] Other carboxylic acids participate in similar intermolecular hydrogen bonding interactions.


Its formula is CH3-COOH (C2H4O2), the carboxyl group being the one that provides the acidic properties to the molecule .

Physical properties of ethanoic acid

Among the physical properties of ethanoic acid we can mention the following:

  • It is a hygroscopic liquid
  • Is colorless
  • It does not have any specific odor, but is described as a pungent (vinegar) odor
  • Its boiling point of 118.05 ° C
  • It has a melting point of 16.6 ° C

Chemical properties

The chemical properties of ethanoic acid are:

  • It is an acid soluble in water, alcohol, ether, glycerin, acetone, benzene, and carbon tetrachloride.
  • Work as a good solvent for various organic compounds and some inorganic compounds such as sulfur and phosphorus.
  • In its anhydrous state it crystallizes at 17 ° C and acquires an ice- like appearance . This is known as glacial acetic acid .
  • It has a dipole moment of 1.74 D
  • It is insoluble in carbon sulfide.

Uses of ethanoic acid

Uses ethanoic acid are many, is an important chemical reagent and chemical industry which is used in the production of plastic soft drink bottles, photographic film; and polyvinyl acetate for wood glue, as well as many synthetic fibers and fabrics. In homes, dilute acetic acid is often used as a cleaning agent . In the manufacture of esters and essences , as a color fixative and as a solvent .

In the food industry , acetic acid is used as an acidity regulator. The acetyl group, derived from acetic acid, is essential for the biochemistry of practically all forms of life. When bound to coenzyme A, it is essential for the metabolism of carbohydrates and fats. However, the concentration of free acetic acid in the cells is kept low to avoid disturbing the pH control of the cell content.

Acetic acid is also a component of the vaginal lubrication of humans and other primates , where it appears to serve as a mild antibacterial agent . Acetic acid is associated with phenylketonuria , which is an inborn error of metabolism.

It is also used in beekeeping to control the larvae and eggs of moths in the wax. It is of important use as a dye in colposcopies detecting the human papillomavirus. It is also used in the chemical washing of equipment that has been used in dialysis.

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