What is Fumaric acid?


Fumaric acid or trans-butenedioic acid is the chemical compound with the formula HO2CCH=CHCO2H. This white crystalline compound is one of two isomeric unsaturated dicarboxylic acids, the other being maleic acid. In fumaric acid the carboxylic acid groups are trans (E) and in maleic acid they are cis (Z). Fumaric acid has a fruit-like taste. The salts and esters are known as fumarates. As a food additive, it is used as an acidity regulator and is denoted by the E number E297. Fumaric acid is a naturally occurring organic compound classified as a dicarboxylic acid. Its chemical formula is C4H4O4, and it is a geometric isomer of maleic acid. Fumaric acid is named after the Latin word “fumus,” which means “smoke,” because it was first identified as a component of smoke.

Here are some key points about fumaric acid:

1. Natural Occurrence: Fumaric acid is found in various plants, particularly in high concentrations in some vegetables, such as bolete mushrooms, as well as in lichen and Iceland moss.

2. Chemical Properties: Fumaric acid is a colorless, odorless crystalline solid at room temperature. It is highly soluble in water and has a strong acidic taste.

3. Use in Food: Fumaric acid is used as an acidulant in the food industry. It is an approved food additive (E number E297) and is often used to enhance the tartness of certain candies and beverages. It can also be used as a leavening agent in baking.

4. Medical Applications: Fumaric acid has been investigated for its potential medical applications, particularly in the treatment of psoriasis. It is sometimes used as part of a treatment regimen for this skin condition.

5. Industrial Uses: Fumaric acid has various industrial applications, including as a co-monomer in the production of unsaturated polyester resins used in fiberglass-reinforced plastics. It is also used in the manufacture of alkyd resins for coatings and as a pH adjuster in various chemical processes.

6. Isomerism: Fumaric acid is known for its geometric isomerism with maleic acid. While fumaric acid has a trans-configuration, maleic acid has a cis-configuration. This difference in molecular structure results in distinct chemical properties and reactivity between the two isomers.

7. Safety: Fumaric acid is generally recognized as safe (GRAS) when used in food and pharmaceutical applications. However, like any chemical, it should be handled with care and used in accordance with safety guidelines.

Overall, fumaric acid is a versatile compound with applications in various industries, including food, pharmaceuticals, and manufacturing, due to its acidity and chemical properties.

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