The most necessary property of carboxylic acids, and also the one that is responsible for naming them such, is their acidity. An acid is any type of compound that donates a hydrogen ion, H+ (likewise called a proton), to another compound, termed a base. Carboxylic acids perform this a lot more readily than a lot of other classes of organic compounds, so they are shelp to be more powerful acids, also though they are much weaker than the the majority of necessary mineral acids—sulfuric (H2SO4), nitric (HNO3), and also hydrochloric (HCl). The factor for the magnified acidity of this group of compounds deserve to finest be demonstrated by a comparikid of their acidity via that of alcohols, both of which contain an ―OH group. Alcohols are neutral compounds in aqueous solution. When an alcohol donates its proton, it becomes an adverse ion called an alkoxide ion, RO−. When a carboxylic acid donates its proton, it becomes a negatively charged ion, RCOO−, referred to as a carboxylate ion.

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A carboxylate ion is a lot more stable than the equivalent alkoxide ion because of the existence of resonance structures for the carboxylate ion which disperse its negative charge. Only one structure can be drawn for an alkoxide ion, yet two structures can be attracted for a carboxylate ion. When 2 or more structures that differ just in the positions of valence electrons have the right to be attracted for a molecule or ion, it implies that its valence electrons are delocalized, or spread over even more than two atoms. This phenomenon is dubbed resonance, and also the frameworks are referred to as resonance develops. A double-headed arrowhead is offered to display that the two or more structures are connected by resonance. Due to the fact that there are 2 resonance forms however only one genuine ion, it follows that neither of these develops is an exact depiction of the actual ion. The real framework incorporates aspects of both resonance frameworks yet duplicates neither. Resonance constantly stabilizes a molecule or ion, also if charge is not involved. The stability of an anion determines the stamina of its parent acid. A carboxylic acid is, therefore, a much stronger acid than the matching alcohol, bereason, as soon as it loses its proton, an extra stable ion results.

Some atoms or teams, once attached to a carbon, are electron-withillustration, as compared through a hydrogen atom in the very same place. For instance, consider chloroacetic acid (Cl―CH2COOH) compared via acetic acid (H―CH2COOH). Because chlorine has actually a greater electronegativity than hydrogen, the electrons in the Cl―C bond are attracted farther from the carbon than the electrons in the corresponding H―C bond. Thus, chlorine is taken into consideration to be an electron-withillustration group. This is one example of the so-referred to as inductive impact, in which a substituent affects a compound’s circulation of electrons. Tright here are a number of such effects, and also atoms or teams may be electron-withillustration or electron-donating as compared through hydrogen. The existence of such groups close to the COOH group of a carboxylic acid frequently has actually an impact on the acidity. In basic, electron-withdrawing groups boost acidity by boosting the stcapacity of the carboxylate ion. In contrast, electron-donating teams decrease acidity by destabilizing the carboxylate ion. For example, the methyl group, ―CH3, is mainly regarded as electron-donating, and acetic acid, CH3 COOH, is about 10 times weaker as an acid than formic acid, HCOOH. Similarly, chloroacetic acid, ClCH2 COOH, in which the strongly electron-withdrawing chlorine relocations a hydrogen atom, is about 100 times stronger as an acid than acetic acid, and also nitroacetic acid, NO2CH2 COOH, is even stronger. (The NO2 group is a very strong electron-withillustration team.) An even better effect is uncovered in trichloroacetic acid, Cl3CCOOH, whose acid stamina is about the exact same as that of hydrochloric acid.


The solubility of carboxylic acids in water is similar to that of alcohols, aldehydes, and also ketones. Acids via fewer than around 5 carbons dissolve in water; those with a greater molecular weight are insoluble owing to the bigger hydrocarbon percentage, which is hydrophobic. The sodium, ammonium, and also potassium salts of carboxylic acids, but, are primarily rather soluble in water. Thus, virtually any kind of carboxylic acid deserve to be made to disfix in water by converting it to such a salt, which is easily done by including a solid base—a lot of commonly sodium hydroxide (NaOH) or potassium hydroxide, (KOH). The calcium and sodium salts of propanoic (propionic) acid are used as preservatives, chiefly in cheese, bread, and also other baked items.

Boiling point

Carboxylic acids have much better boiling points than hydrocarbons, alcohols, ethers, aldehydes, or ketones of equivalent molecular weight. Even the most basic carboxylic acid, formic acid, boils at 101 °C (214 °F), which is substantially greater than the boiling allude of ethanol (ethyl alcohol), C2H5OH, which boils at 78.5 °C (173 °F), although the 2 have practically similar molecular weights. The distinction is that two molecules of a carboxylic acid create 2 hydrogen bonds with each other (2 alcohol molecules deserve to only develop one). Thus, carboxylic acids exist as dimers (pairs of molecules), not only in the liquid state yet even to some degree in the gaseous state.


Thus, boiling a carboxylic acid calls for the addition of even more warmth than boiling the corresponding alcohol, bereason (1) if the dimer persists in the gaseous state, the molecular weight is in impact doubled; and also, (2) if the dimer is damaged upon boiling, additional power is required to break the two hydrogen bonds. Carboxylic acids with higher molecular weights are solids at room temperature (e.g., benzoic and palmitic acids). Virtually all salts of carboxylic acids are solids at room temperature, as deserve to be expected for ionic compounds.

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Unbranched-chain carboxylic acids (fatty acids) that are liquids at room temperature, specifically those from propanoic (C3) to decanoic (C10) acid, have actually very foul, disagreeable odours. An example is butanoic (butyric) acid (C4), which is the main ingredient in stale perspiration and also thus the chief reason of “locker-room” odour.