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Information @ a Glance

General

  • Benzoic acid, C7H6O2 (or C6H5COOH), is a colorless crystalline solid and the simplest aromatic carboxylic acid; melting at 122 C; boiling at 249 C; slightly soluble in water, soluble in ethanol, very slightly soluble in benzene and acetone.

  • The name derived from gum benzoin, which was for a long time the only source for benzoic acid.

  • Benzoic acid is an important precursor for the synthesis of many other organic substances.

  • Benzoic Acid occurs as white laminar crystals or needles. It is odorless or has a slight odor of benzaldehyde.

Production Process

  • The most of commercial benzoic acid is produced by the reaction of toluene with oxygen at temperatures around 200 C in the liquid phase and in the presence of cobalt and manganese salts as catalysts. The process uses cheap raw materials, proceeds in high yield, and is considered environmentally green.

  • It can be prepared also by the oxidation of benzene with concentrated sulphuric acid or carbon dioxide in the presence of catalysts. Other methods are such as by the oxidation of benzyl alcohol, benzaldehyde, cinnamic acid; by hydrolysis of benzonitrile, benzoyl chloride.

  • Benzoic acid is cheap and readily available, so the laboratory synthesis of benzoic acid is mainly practiced for its pedagogical value. It is a common undergraduate preparation.

  • For all syntheses, benzoic acid can be purified by recrystallization from water because of its high solubility in hot water and poor solubility in cold water.

  • The first industrial process involved the reaction of benzotrichloride (trichloromethyl benzene) with calcium hydroxide in water, using iron or iron salts as catalyst. Benzoic acid for human consumption was obtained by dry distillation of gum benzoin.

Applications

  • Benzoic acid and its salts are used as a food preservative, represented by the E-numbers E210, E211, E212, and E213.

  • Acidic food and beverage like fruit juice (citric acid), sparkling drinks (carbon dioxide), soft drinks (phosphoric acid), pickles (vinegar) or other acidified food are preserved with benzoic acid and benzoates.

  • Benzoic acid is a constituent of Whitfield's Ointment which is used for the treatment of fungal skin diseases such as tinea, ringworm, and athlete's foot.

  • Benzoic acid is used as an anti-microbial agent. It is found in toothpastes and mouthwashes, cosmetics, and deodorants.

Market

  • Benzoic acid continues to outpace the general economy, primarily due to the healthy demand for benzoate plasticizers.

  • Growth for benzoic acid is forecasted at 2.9 percent per year. On the supply side, toluene is plentiful and prices hit a low of $0.69 per gallon.

  • Capacity is comfortable as the industry is operating at less than 80 percent capacity, including benzoic acid manufactured as an intermediate for phenol.

  • Most material is consumed captively in the production of a variety of industrial chemicals. It is estimated that 95 million pounds or 45 percent of Noveonís benzoic acid is used captively to produce phenol, in a second partial oxidation process.

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