Acetic Acid Overview

Acetic acid is an organic compound with the chemical formula CH3COOH. It is also known as Ethanoic Acid. It is one of the simplest carboxylic acids and mainly produced as a precursor to poly-vinyl-acetate and cellulose acetate. Acetic acid is an important chemical reagent for both industrial and household purposes.

General Properties of Acetic Acid:

  • It is a colourless liquid
  • It has a distinctive sour taste
  • It is pungent smelling
  • It is corrosive by nature
  • It is a natural antibacterial agent
  • It is a polar solvent, and dissolves both polar as well as non-polar compounds such as oils, sulphur and iodine.

Production of Acetic Acid:

Acetic acid can be produced synthetically, as well as through bacterial fermentation. There are many ways in which acetic acid is produced. But majorly, the industrial production of acetic acid is by the carbonylation of methanol. In this method, methanol is made to react with carbon monoxide, the overall reaction is indicated as:


The reaction mechanism involves 3 steps:

CH3OH + HI → CH3I + H2O

The process needs a metal catalyst that is a metal carbonyl, for the carbonylation. There are two catalysts used Rhodium and Iridium, of which using Iridium is greener and more efficient. Acetic acid to be used in the food industry is produced biologically, through anaerobic fermentation.

Acetic Acid has a wide range of applications in various areas such as medicine, biotechnology, in food and beverages, polymers, etc. It is also used as a raw material for the production of many downstream products in industries. Some of the important applications are:

Food Industry
It is an approved food additive and is present in many packaged food products as an acidity regulator and as a condiment. It is the main ingredient for the production of vinegar. Acetic acid is also used as an antimicrobial agent.

Intermediate Chemicals
Acetic acid is used as a polar organic solvent for production of Purified Terephthalic Acid (PTA).PTA acts as a precursor and is used in the production of polyethylene terephthalate (PET).It is also used to produce many organic and inorganic salts such as silver acetate, palladium acetate, etc.

Textile Industry
It is used for manufacturing synthetic fibres in the textile industry. They are used for textile processing and printing. During the dyeing process, acetic acid plays a vital role in maintaining accurate and constant pH.

Pharmaceutical Industry
It is used for medicinal purposes such as for outer ear infections, to help prevent the growth of fungus and bacteria. It is also used as an effective tool for cervical cancer screening and has also been known to have used in controlling some symptoms of diabetes. In clinical laboratory acetic acid is used for the testing of blood samples.

Other Applications
Acetic acid is used for manufacturing perfumes, fragrances, pesticides and insecticides. It is used in the printing industry as a component of inks and dyes, in polymer industry for manufacturing rubber, plastics, soft drink bottles, etc. It is even used to produce cellulose acetate for photographic films.

CAS No. : 64-19-7
Formula : CH3COOH
Moleculat Weight : 60.05 g/mol
Synonyms : Methane carboxylic acid, ethanoic acid
Physical state : Clear viscous liquid
Melting Point : 16 °C
Boiling Point : 118 °C
Solubility in water : 100%
Specific gravity, phase : 1.049 to 1.055, liquid

Colour (APHA) : Max. 10
Freezing Point : Min. 15
Non-volatiles, % by wt. : Max. 0.003
Heavy Metals (as Pb), % by wt. : Max. 0.001
Sulphates (as SO4), % by wt. : Max. 0.002
Chlorides (as Cl), % by wt : Max. 0.004
Formic Acid, % by wt. : Max. 0.15
Purity, % by wt. : Min. 99.5
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