World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

Organic acid

Article Id: WHEBN0000066286
Reproduction Date:

Title: Organic acid  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Organic acid

An organic acid is an carboxylic acids, whose acidity is associated with their carboxyl group –COOH. Sulfonic acids, containing the group –SO2OH, are relatively stronger acids. Alcohols, with –OH, can act as acids but they are usually very weak. The relative stability of the conjugate base of the acid determines its acidity. Other groups can also confer acidity, usually weakly: the thiol group –SH, the enol group, and the phenol group. In biological systems, organic compounds containing these groups are generally referred to as organic acids.


  • Characteristics 1
  • Examples 2
  • Applications 3
  • Application in food 4
  • Application in nutrition and animal feeds 5
  • See also 6
  • References 7
  • Further reading 8


In general, organic acids are benzoic acid, are insoluble in molecular (neutral) form.

On the other hand, most organic acids are very soluble in organic solvents. p-Toluenesulfonic acid is a comparatively strong acid used in organic chemistry often because it is able to dissolve in the organic reaction solvent.

Exceptions to these solubility characteristics exist in the presence of other substituents that affect the polarity of the compound.


The pKa a logarithmic measure of the acid dissociation constant, categorizes the strength of an acid; the lower or more negative the number, the stronger and more dissociable the acid. It should not be confused with pH, the logarithmic measure of actual hydrogen ion concentration, and thus strength of a particular acid solution. A few examples include: (COOH is the carboxyl group)

  • Formic acid (methanoic acid) HCOOH (pKa=3.8)
  • Acetic acid (ethanoic acid ) CH3COOH (pKa=4.7)
  • Propionic acid (propanoic acid) CH3CH2COOH (pKa=4.9)
  • Butyric acid (butanoic acid) CH3CH2CH2COOH (pKa=4.8)
  • Valeric acid (pentanoic acid) CH3CH2CH2CH2COOH (pKa=4.8)
  • Caproic acid (hexanoic acid) CH3CH2CH2CH2CH2COOH (pKa=4.9)
  • Oxalic acid (ethanedioic acid) (COOH)(COOH) (pKa=1.2)
  • Lactic acid (2-hydroxypropanoic acid) CH3CHOHCOOH (pKa=3.9)
  • Malic acid (2-hydroxybutanedioic acid) (COOH)CH2CHOH(COOH) (pKa=3.4)
  • Citric acid (2-hydroxypropane-1,2,3-tricarboxylic acid) CH2(COOH)COH(COOH)CH2(COOH) (pKa=3.1)
  • Benzoic acid (carboxybenzene or phenylmethanoic acid, not IUPAC names) C6H5COOH (pKa=4.2)
  • Carbonic acid (hydroxymethanoic acid, not a IUPAC name) OHCOOH or H2CO3 (pKa=3.6)

Carbonic acid, a weak acid formed by CO2 gas dissolving in water, is considered carbonate and bicarbonate ions.

  • Phenol (carbolic acid or hydroxybenzene, not IUPAC names) C6H5OH (pKa=9.9)

The 19th century name carbolic acid came from the original German name karbolsäure, or coal-oil-acid. It is a weak, non-carboxylic acid, but causes chemical burns on skin due to other reactions.

  • Uric acid (7,9-Dihydro-1H-purine-2,6,8(3H)-trione) C5H4N4O3 (pKa=-1.1)

Uric acid is a heterocyclic purine derivative which is a diprotic acid but not a carboxylic one; it loses a hydrogen ion at the location of a nitrogen atom.

  • Taurine (2-aminoethanesulfonic acid) C2H7NO3S (pKa=9.0)

One of the few natural sulfonic acids, discovered in bile.

A strong acid that, unlike some strong mineral acids, is non-oxidizing.

A strong phosphonic acid


Simple organic acids like

  • Dibner, J. J.; Butin, P. (2002). "Use of organic acids as a model to study the impact of gut microflora on nutrition and metabolism". J. Appl. Poultry Res. 11 (4): 453–463. 
  • Patanen, K. H.; Mroz, Z. (1999). "Organic acids for preservation". In Block, S. S. Disinfection, sterilization & preservation (5th ed.). Philadelphia: Lea Febiger.  
  • Brul, S.; Coote, P. (1999). "Preservative agents in foods, mode of action and microbial resistance mechnismes". Intl. J. Food Microbiology 50 (1–2): 1–17.  

Further reading

  1. ^ Applications for hydrochloric acid.
  2. ^ Applications for citric acid.
  3. ^ Applications for oxalic acid.
  4. ^ Applications for lactic acid.
  5. ^ Applications for uses of organic acids.


See also

From the use of organic acids in poultry and pigs, one can expect an improvement in performance similar to or better than that of antibiotic growth promoters, without the public health concern, a preventive effect on the intestinal problems like necrotic enteritis in chickens and Escherichia coli infection in young pigs. Also one can expect a reduction of the carrier state for Salmonella species and Campylobacter species.

Organic acids added to feeds should be protected to avoid their dissociation in the crop and in the intestine (high pH segments) and reach far into the gastrointestinal tract, where the bulk of the bacteria population is located.

Organic acids (C1–C7) are widely distributed in nature as normal constituents of plants or animal tissues. They are also formed through microbial fermentation of carbohydrates mainly in the large intestine. They are sometimes found in their sodium, potassium, or calcium salts, or even stronger double salts.

Organic acids have been used successfully in pig production for more than 25 years. Although less research has been done in poultry, organic acids have also been found to be effective in poultry production. [5]

Application in nutrition and animal feeds

Lactic acid and its salts sodium lactate and potassium lactate are widely used as antimicrobials in food products, in particular, meat and poultry such as ham and sausages.[4]

It has been well demonstrated that the state of the organic acids (undissociated or dissociated) is extremely important in determining their capacity to inhibit the growth of bacteria.

Upon passive diffusion of organic acids into the bacteria, where the pH is near or above neutrality, the acids will dissociate and lower the bacteria internal pH, leading to situations that will impair or stop the growth of bacteria. Thereafter, the anionic part of the organic acids, which cannot escape the bacteria in its dissociated form, will accumulate within the bacteria and disrupt many metabolic functions, leading to osmotic pressure increase, incompatible with the survival of the bacteria.

Organic acids are used in Escherichia coli, Salmonella spp., C. perfringens, Listeria monocytogenes, and Campylobacter species.

Application in food

The general structure of a few organic acids. From left to right: carboxylic acid, sulfonic acid. The acidic hydrogen in each molecule is colored red.
The general structure of a few weak organic acids. From left to right: phenol, enol, alcohol, thiol. The acidic hydrogen in each molecule is colored red.

Biological systems create many and more complex organic acids such as amino acids, neurotransmitters, and intestinal bacterial action on food components. Examples of these categories are alpha-ketoisocaproic, vanilmandelic, and D-lactic acids, derived from catabolism of L-leucine and epinephrine (adrenaline) by human tissues and catabolism of dietary carbohydrate by intestinal bacteria, respectively.

Citric and oxalic acids are used as rust removal. As acids, they can dissolve the iron oxides, but without damaging the base metal as do stronger mineral acids. In the dissociated form, they may be able to chelate the metal ions, helping to speed removal. [2] [3]

The citrate and lactate are often used in biologically-compatible buffer solutions.


This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from World eBook Library are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.