Tartaric acid, sometimes called racemic acid, is an organic compound that naturally occurs in plants, wine, and many fruits, such as grapes, tamarinds, citrus, and bananas. The acid is available as a white solid that’s soluble in water. Its salt, commonly referred to as cream of tartar, is created naturally through fermentation.
Tartaric acid is made from potassium acid tartrate obtained from different by-products of the wine industry, such as lees, argol, and press cakes from fermented grape juice. This dibasic acid is usually mixed with sodium bicarbonate and is available as baking powder commonly used as a food additive.
Forms of Tartaric Acid
Tartaric acid is a strong dicarboxylic acid with a molecular formula of C4H6O6. It exists in three forms:
- L-tartaric acid
- D-tartaric acid
- Mesotartaric acid
All these forms of tartaric acid have the same chemical formula but different atom arrangements. Again, L-tartaric acid occurs naturally, while mesotartaric acid and D-tartaric acid are synthetically produced.
Tartaric Acid Uses
This acid and its derivatives have multiple uses in various industries. The most common applications of tartaric acid are:
Tartaric acid is widely used as a retarding agent in oilfield applications as well as in cementitious-based systems. It works by slowing the setting of cement by impeding certain reactions during the hydration of the cement process. This acid retards various steps, including ettringite formation and C3A hydration.
Tartaric acid also has many uses in the food industry. As an acidulant, it offers a pleasant sour taste and gives food a sharp flavor. It also serves as a preservative food agent and can help set gels. Tartaric acid is usually added to most products, including carbonated beverages, gelatin, fruit jellies, and effervescent tablets. This acid is also used as an ingredient in candy and various brands of baking powders and leavening systems to make goods rise.
Tartaric acid has many industrial applications. It’s used in gold and silver plating, making blue ink for blueprints, tanning leather, and cleaning and polishing metals. It’s also one of the ingredients in Rochelle Salt, which is luxuriant and reacts with silver nitrate to form the silvering in mirrors.
The by-products obtained from the fermentation of wine during the production of tartaric acid are heated with calcium hydroxide. This causes calcium tartrate to develop a residue, which is further treated with sulfuric acid to form a mixture of tartaric acid and calcium sulfate. Once the mixture is separated, tartaric acid is purified and used for commercial production.
Other tartaric acid uses include pharmaceutical applications to produce effervescent salt that helps enhance the taste of oral medications. It’s also used in the metals and farming industry as a chelating agent for cleaning metal surfaces and adding nutrients to the soil.
Shop Tartaric Acid from Bisley International
At Bisley International, we supply a few grades of tartaric acid and tartrates, including Rochelle salt, L-tartaric acid, and DL-tartaric acid. You can also find customizable solutions. Contact our sales team to learn more.
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