Uses of Carboxylic Acids

Carboxylic acids are nothing but carbon compounds which contains a carboxyl functional group, –COOH. The carboxyl group consists of a carbonyl group attached to a hydroxyl group, hence its name carboxyl. Carboxylic acids may be aliphatic (RCOOH) or aromatic (ArCOOH) depending on the group, alkyl or aryl, attached to carboxylic carbon. Large number of carboxylic acids is found in nature. Some of the higher members of aliphatic carboxylic acids (C12 – C18) known as fatty acids are seen in natural fats as esters of glycerol. Carboxylic acids act as starting material for several other important organic compounds such as anhydrides, esters, acid chlorides, amides, etc. as it is used in the preparation process of the same.

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Carboxylic acids are widely used and they include amino acids and acetic acid. The salts and esters of carboxylic acids are known as carboxylates. When a carboxyl group is deprotonated, its conjugate base forms a carboxylate ion. The carboxylate ions are resonance stabilized and this increases their stability. This further leads to making them more acidic as compared to alcohols. There are also various methods that can be used for the preparation of Carboxylic acids.

Carboxylic acids can be observed as reduced form of Lewis-acid carbon dioxide but under certain conditions they can be decarboxylated to give carbon dioxide. Some of the uses of carboxylic acid are as follows:

  • The use of carboxylic acids in organic synthesis is a very wide area and the chemical transformations of this group to another have made it a very versatile functional group.
  • Fatty acids that are essential to human beings are made up of carboxylic acids. Examples include omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids.
  • Higher fatty acids are also used in the manufacture of soaps.
  • Carboxylic acids are involved in the production of soft drinks and many other food products.
  • The manufacture of rubber involves the use of acetic acid as a coagulant.
  • Type of carboxylic acid is used in the manufacture of nylon-6,6.
  • It also have numerous applications in the rubber, textile, and leather industries.
  • Ethylene- diamine- tetraacetic acid is a widely used chelating agent.
  • The synthesis of many drugs involves the use of these compounds. Therefore, carboxylic acids are very important in pharmaceuticals.
  • The production of many polymers involves the use of compounds containing the carboxyl functional group.
  • In Nanotechnology, the carboxylic acid is used as surface modifiers to promote the dispersion and incorporation of metallic nanoparticle or carbon nanostructure.


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