Fumaric acid is an organic compound that occurs naturally in certain plants and foods. It has the chemical formula C4H4O4 and is an intermediate in the Krebs cycle. This article will explore the various properties, uses and applications of fumaric acid.
Fumaric acid is a white crystalline powder that is only sparingly soluble in water but freely soluble in boiling water. Its chemical structure consists of two carboxylic acid substituents bonded on a trans-butenedioic acid platform. This makes fumaric acid a dicarboxylic acid which gives it some unique properties.
It has a melting point of 287 °C and forms a stable dimeric ring structure when dissolved or melted. It is odorless and possesses two asymmetric carbons which allows it to exist in cis-trans isomeric forms. The trans isomer, which is the most stable form, is the one obtained from plants and used commercially.
Fumaric Acid naturally occurs in certain plant species such as lichens, bolete mushrooms and fumitory plant. Commercially, it is produced either by fermentation of carbohydrates like sugar cane or through chemical synthesis using maleic anhydride as a raw material.
Major edible sources of fumaric acid include dried figs which contain it in amounts of 3-4% of dry weight. It is also present in grape must, apples and tomatoes. The level of fumaric acid in these fruits and vegetables can vary depending on variety, ripening stage and growing conditions.
Uses and Applications
One of the main uses of fumaric acid is in the food industry as an acidity regulator and pH control agent. It has the E number E297 and can be added to foods to impart a tart or sour taste similar to citric acid but milder. It is commonly used in fruit snacks, baked goods, gelatin desserts and in products like wine or sauce where a mellow acidity is desired.
Unsaturated Polyester Resins
Fumaric acid is also utilized as a coreactant in the production of unsaturated polyester resins which are thermoset polymers. These resins have applications in industries like construction, automotive and marine where they are used to produce fiberglass reinforced plastic parts. The fumaric acid molecules crosslink with vinyl or allyl groups during curing to give the final hardened resin structure.
Due to its ability to inhibit pathogenic microbes, fumaric acid finds usage as an feed additive in animal nutrition. It is approved for use in poultry, swine and cattle feed at dosage levels ranging from 1-3 kg/ton to control harmful gut bacteria and prevent diseases. This promotes better growth rates and feed conversion efficiency in livestock.
Some pharmaceutical applications of fumaric acid take advantage of its ability to donate hydrogen ions and modify physiological pH. It is used as an excipient in effervescent tablets and is a component of antacid formulations. A newer application is as an active ingredient in drugs for the treatment of psoriasis and multiple sclerosis.
Personal Care Products
The mild acidity and moisture retention properties of fumaric acid make it suitable for use in personal care items like hair conditioners, shampoos and skin creams. It acts as a pH balancer, humectant and preservative booster in these products. Fumaric acid may also help soothe skin conditions like acne, dermatitis or chapped lips when present in low concentrations.
In addition to the major uses mentioned above, fumaric acid finds numerous other niche applications as well. It is used in the vulcanization of rubber, as a mold inhibitor and preservative, in the tanning industry and for producing fumarates which are important industrial intermediates. Fumaric acid esters also show biodegradable and renewable properties making them attractive for the development of green plastics.
With the growing market for unsaturated polyester resins in end use sectors such as construction, wind energy, transportation and marine, the demand for fumaric acid as a coreactant is expected to rise steadily. Its approval for expanded food and feed uses along with promising results in pharmaceutical formulations to treat skin diseases point toward a assured long term future. Continued research into fumaric acid derivatives may throw up newer biomaterial and green chemistry applications. Overall, the versatile organic compound looks well placed to cement its importance industrially in the years ahead.
Fumaric acid possesses multiple active functionalities that allow its diverse commercial applications across sectors such as food, animal feed, chemicals, pharmaceuticals and personal care. As a naturally derived dicarboxylic acid, it demonstrates great potential for fulfilling industry needs as an acidity regulator, precursor, preservative andpH control agent. Its renewability and versatility should ensure sustained demand prospects going forward.
1. Source: Coherent Market Insights, Public sources, Desk research
2. We have leveraged AI tools to mine information and compile it