Formic acid is the smallest of all
the carboxylic acids and has a formula of HCOOH. It has a pungent and
penetrating odour at room temperature. It is also miscible with water and most
polar organic solvents but immiscible in non-polar solvents.
Formic acid can be found in the venom
of ants. Its undergo series of organic reactions to form other relevant organic
compounds, such as reaction with alcohol to form esters, reduction to form
aldehydes, decomposition to form carbon dioxide and water, and reaction with
sulfuric acid to yield carbon monoxide.
can be manufactured with the reaction of methanol and carbon monoxide, in the
presence of a strong base such as sodium methoxide. Methyl formate formed is
then hydrolyzed to yield formic acid and regenerate methanol. With the
regeneration of methanol, only a catalytic amount of methanol is required for
the whole manufacturing process.
CH3OH + CO à HCO2CH3
+ H2O à HCO2H + CH3OH
Acetic Acid Production
is also a by-product from the manufacturing of acetic acid. When acetic acid is
manufactured via the acetaldehyde oxidation method, butane is oxidized and
ethylene is hydrated via Wacker process to obtain acetaldehyde. Further
oxidation of acetaldehyde yield acetic acid, with significant amount of formic
acid as by-product.
can also be formed from the hydrogenation of carbon dioxide or heating oxalic
acid in glycerol catalyst and extraction by steam distillation. Alternatively,
oxidation of biomass such as sugars, wood and waste paper can yield formic acid
and carbon dioxide.
is used in dyeing and dye fixing, setting and retaining colors in fibers. Due
to its acidic nature, it is also used as a neutralizing agent and pH adjustor
in textile processing and finishing of textile, as effective and accurate pH
control is required throughout the whole process of dyeing, processing and finishing.
Formic acid is also used as a preservative and
antibacterial agent in livestock feed. In Europe, it is applied on silage to promote the fermentation of lactic acid and to suppress the
formation of butyric acid; it also
allows fermentation to occur quickly, and at a lower temperature, reducing the
loss of nutritional value. Formic acid arrests certain decay processes and
causes the feed to retain its nutritive value longer, and so it is widely used
to preserve winter feed for cattle.
Formic acid has a wide
range of uses. It is used as a miticide, to kill tracheal mite. It is used
instead of mineral acids in some cleaning products such as lime scale remover
and toilet cleaners. Its esters are used in the making of perfumes. It is also
used in fuel cells, but it is still under study. It is used as a coagulant in
rubber production. It is used in leather tanning and production. It is also
added to animal fodder in the poultry industry, as it kills the E-coli.