acetic acid

acetic acid (əsēˈtĭk) [key], CH3CO2H, colorless liquid that has a characteristic pungent odor, boils at 118°C, and is miscible with water in all proportions; it is a weak organic carboxylic acid (see carboxyl group). Glacial acetic acid is concentrated, 99.5% pure acetic acid; it solidifies at about 17°C to a crystalline mass resembling ice. Acetic acid is the major acid in vinegar; as such, it is widely used as a food preservative and condiment. For industrial use concentrated acetic acid is prepared from the oxidation of acetaldehyde. Acetic acid is also a product in the destructive distillation of wood. It reacts with other chemicals to form numerous compounds of commercial importance. These include cellulose acetate, used in making acetate rayon, nonflammable motion-picture film, lacquers, and plastics; various inorganic salts, e.g., lead, potassium, and copper acetates; and amyl, butyl, ethyl, methyl, and propyl acetates, which are used as solvents, chiefly in certain quick-drying lacquers and cements. Amyl acetate is sometimes called banana oil because it has a characteristic banana odor.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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