Worlds of David Darling
Encyclopedia of Science
   
Home > Encyclopedia of Science

carboxylic acids





carboxylic acids
Organic compounds that contain one or more carboxyl groups (RC(=O)OH), where R is an organic group. Those acids where R is a straight-chain alkyl group are sometimes known as fatty acids, and are named as alkanoic acids from the corresponding alkane, i.e., their names end in the suffix "-oic" (e.g., ethanoic acid, CH3COOH).

Some carboxylic acids occur free in nature, including formic acid and acetic acid – the two simplest – and citric, lactic, malic, and tartaric acids. These, and others including benzoic, oxalic, and salicylic acids, are found also as their salts and esters. Many of the fatty acids, including oleic, palmitic, and stearic acids, occur in oils and fats as esters of glycerol.

Carboxylic acids are made by hydrolysis of esters, acid anhydrides, or acid chlorides, or by oxidation of aldehydes or primary alcohols.

Carboxylic acids are generally weak acids, the exact strength depending on the electronegativity of the group R, and so are often used with their salts as buffers. Many derivatives of carboxylic acids are important in nature or chemical synthesis: they include acid anhydrides, acid chlorides, amides, esters, nitriles, and peroxyacids.


Related entries

   • amino acids
   • dicarboxylic acid
   • nucleic acids


Related category

   • ORGANIC CHEMISTRY