Acetic acid is an organic compound with the
chemical formula CH3COOH. 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. It is a colourless liquid that has a distinctive sour taste and is
pungent smelling. It is corrosive by nature. It is a natural antibacterial
agent and is a polar solvent that dissolves both polar as well as non-polar compounds
such as oils, sulphur and iodine.
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:
CH3OH + CO → CH3COOH
The reaction mechanism involves 3 steps:
CH3OH + HI → CH3I
CH3I + CO → CH3COI
CH3COI + H2O → CH3COOH
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
The primary use of acetic acid is a solvent
for many industrial processes.
It is used for manufacturing perfumes and
It is also used in clinical laboratory
analysis for testing blood samples. It also serves 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 been used in controlling some symptoms of diabetes.
It is an approved food additive and is present
in many packaged food products as an acidity regulator and as a condiment.
It is used for manufacturing synthetic fibres
in the textile industry.
It is used in the printing industry as a
component of inks and dyes, in the polymer industry for manufacturing rubber,
plastics, soft drink bottles, etc., in the manufacture of pesticides and insecticides,
to produce cellulose acetate for photographic films. Also, many organic and
inorganic salts are produced from acetic acid, for example, silver acetate, palladium