Tartaric acid

Tartaric acid
Tartaric acid[1]
CAS number 526-83-0 YesY
PubChem 875
ChemSpider 852 YesY
DrugBank DB01694
KEGG C00898 YesY
MeSH tartaric+acid
ChEMBL CHEMBL333714 YesY, CHEMBL1200861
Jmol-3D images Image 1
Molecular formula C4H6O6 (Basic formula)
HO2CCH(OH)CH(OH)CO2H (Structural formula)
Molar mass 150.087 g/mol
Appearance white powder
Density 1.79 g/mL (H2O)
Melting point

171–174 °C (L-tartaric)
206 °C (DL, racemic)
146–148 °C (meso)[2]

Solubility in water 133 g/100ml (20°C)
Acidity (pKa) L(+) 25°C :
pKa1= 2.95 pKa2= 4.25
meso 25°C:
pKa1= 3.22 pKa2= 4.85
EU classification Irritant(Xi)
R-phrases R36
Related compounds
Other cations Monosodium tartrate
Disodium tartrate
Monopotassium tartrate
Dipotassium tartrate
Related carboxylic acids Butyric acid
Succinic acid
Malic acid
Maleic acid
Fumaric acid
Related compounds 2,3-Butanediol
Cichoric acid
 N acid (verify) (what is: YesY/N?)
Except where noted otherwise, data are given for materials in their standard state (at 25 °C, 100 kPa)
Infobox references

Tartaric acid is a white crystalline diprotic organic acid. It occurs naturally in many plants, particularly grapes, bananas, and tamarinds; is commonly combined with baking soda to function as a leavening agent in recipes, and is one of the main acids found in wine. It is added to other foods to give a sour taste, and is used as an antioxidant. Salts of tartaric acid are known as tartrates. It is a dihydroxyl derivative of succinic acid.

Tartaric acid was first isolated from potassium tartrate, known to the ancients as tartar, c. 800 by the alchemist Jabir ibn Hayyan.[3] The modern process was developed in 1769 by the Swedish chemist Carl Wilhelm Scheele.

Tartaric acid played an important role in the discovery of chemical chirality. This property of tartaric acid was first observed in 1832 by Jean Baptiste Biot, who observed its ability to rotate polarized light. Louis Pasteur continued this research in 1847 by investigating the shapes of ammonium sodium tartrate crystals, which he found to be chiral. By manually sorting the differently shaped crystals under magnification, Pasteur was the first to produce a pure sample of levotartaric acid.[4][5][6][7]



Tartaric acid crystals drawn as if seen through an optical microscope

Naturally occurring tartaric acid is chiral, meaning that it has molecules that are non-superimposable on their mirror-images. It is a useful raw material in organic chemistry for the synthesis of other chiral molecules. The naturally occurring form of the acid is L-(+)-tartaric acid or dextrotartaric acid. The mirror-image (enantiomeric) form, levotartaric acid or D-(−)-tartaric acid, and the achiral form, mesotartaric acid, can be made artificially. Note, that the dextro and levo prefixes are not related to the D/L configuration (which is derived rather indirectly[8] from their structural relation to D- or L-glyceraldehyde), but to the orientation of the optical rotation, (+) = dextrorotatory, (−) = levorotatory. Sometimes, instead of capital letters, small italic d and l are used. They are abbreviations of dextro- and levo- and, nowadays, should not be used. Levotartaric and dextrotartaric acid are enantiomers, mesotartaric acid is a diastereomer of both of them.[9][10]

A rarely occurring optically inactive form of tartaric acid, DL-tartaric acid is a 1:1 mixture of the levo and dextro forms. It is distinct from mesotartaric acid and was called racemic acid (from Latin racemus – "a bunch of grapes"). The word racemic later changed its meaning, becoming a general term for 1:1 enantiomeric mixtures – racemates.

Tartaric acid is used to prevent copper(II) ions from reacting with the hydroxide ions present in the preparation of copper(I) oxide. Copper(I) oxide is a reddish brown solid, and is produced by the reduction of a Cu(II) salt with an aldehyde, in an alkaline solution.

levotartaric acid
(D-(−)-tartaric acid)
dextrotartaric acid
(L-(+)-tartaric acid)
mesotartaric acid

D-tartaric acid.png

L-tartaric acid.png Meso-Weinsäure Spiegel.svg

DL-tartaric acid (racemic acid)
(when in 1:1 ratio)

Forms of tartaric acid
Common name tartaric acid levotartaric acid dextrotartaric acid mesotartaric acid racemic acid
Synonyms D-(S,S)-(−)-tartaric acid
unnatural isomer
L-(R,R)-(+)-tartaric acid
natural isomer
(2R,3S)-tartaric acid DL-(S,S/R,R)-(±)-tartaric acid
PubChem CID 875 CID 439655 CID 444305 CID 78956 CID 5851
EINECS number 205-695-6 201-766-0 205-696-1 205-105-7
CAS number 526-83-0 147-71-7 87-69-4 147-73-9 133-37-9


Tartar emetic
Commercially produced tartaric acid.

Important derivatives of tartaric acid include its salts, cream of tartar (potassium bitartrate), Rochelle salt (potassium sodium tartrate, a mild laxative), and tartar emetic (antimony potassium tartrate). Diisopropyl tartrate is used as a catalyst in asymmetric synthesis.

Tartaric acid is a muscle toxin, which works by inhibiting the production of malic acid, and in high doses causes paralysis and death.[11] The median lethal dose (LD50) is about 7.5 grams/kg for a human, ~5.3 grams/kg for rabbits and ~4.4 grams/kg for mice.[12] Given this figure, it would take over 500 grams (18 oz) to kill a person weighing 70 kilograms (150 lb), and so it may be safely included in many foods, especially sour-tasting sweets. As a food additive, tartaric acid is used as an antioxidant with E number E334, tartrates are other additives serving as antioxidants or emulsifiers.

When cream of tartar is added to water, a suspension results which serves to clean copper coins very well, as the tartrate solution can dissolve the layer of copper(II) oxide present on the surface of the coin. The resulting copper(II)-tartrate complex is easily soluble in water.

Tartaric acid in wine

Unpurified potassium bitartarate, separated from grape juice, can take on the color of the grape juice.

Tartaric acid may be most immediately recognizable to wine drinkers as the source of "wine diamonds", the small potassium bitartrate crystals that sometimes form spontaneously on the cork. These "tartrates" are harmless, despite sometimes being mistaken for broken glass, and are prevented in many wines through cold stabilization. The tartrates that remain on the inside of aging barrels were at one time a major industrial source of potassium bitartrate.

However, tartaric acid plays an important role chemically, lowering the pH of fermenting "must" to a level where many undesirable spoilage bacteria cannot live, and acting as a preservative after fermentation. In the mouth, tartaric acid provides some of the tartness in the wine, although citric and malic acids also play a role.


  1. ^ Tartaric Acid – Compound Summary, PubChem.
  2. ^ Lide, D. R., ed (2005). CRC Handbook of Chemistry and Physics (86th ed.). Boca Raton (FL): CRC Press. ISBN 0-8493-0486-5. 
  3. ^ Lisa Solieri, Paolo Giudici (2009). Vinegars of the World. Springer. p. 29. ISBN 8847008654. http://books.google.com/?id=XuPWgEMx_eIC&pg=PA29. 
  4. ^ L. Pasteur (1848) "Mémoire sur la relation qui peut exister entre la forme cristalline et la composition chimique, et sur la cause de la polarisation rotatoire" (Memoir on the relationship which can exist between crystalline form and chemical composition, and on the cause of rotary polarization)," Comptes rendus de l'Académie des sciences (Paris), vol. 26, pp. 535–538.
  5. ^ L. Pasteur (1848) "Sur les relations qui peuvent exister entre la forme cristalline, la composition chimique et le sens de la polarisation rotatoire" (On the relations that can exist between crystalline form, and chemical composition, and the sense of rotary polarization), Annales de Chimie et de Physique, 3rd series, vol. 24, no. 6, pages 442–459.
  6. ^ George B. Kauffman and Robin D. Myers (1998). "Pasteur's resolution of racemic acid: A sesquicentennial retrospect and a new translation". The Chemical Educator 3 (6): 1–4. doi:10.1007/s00897980257a. 
  7. ^ H. D. Flack (2009). "Louis Pasteur's discovery of molecular chirality and spontaneous resolution in 1848, together with a complete review of his crystallographic and chemical work". Acta Crystallographica A 65: 371–389. doi:10.1107/S0108767309024088. PMID 19687573. http://crystal.flack.ch/sh5092.pdf. 
  8. ^ J. M. McBride's Yale lecture on history of stereochemistry of tartaric acid, the D/L and R/S systems
  9. ^ various (2007-07-23). Organic Chemistry. Global Media. p. 65. ISBN 9788189940768. http://books.google.com/?id=lEHMm2yRqkoC&pg=PT65. Retrieved 2010-06-05. 
  10. ^ "(WO/2008/022994) Use of azabicyclo hexane derivatives". http://www.wipo.int/pctdb/ja/wo.jsp?WO=2008022994&IA=EP2007058636&DISPLAY=DESC. 
  11. ^ Alfred Swaine Taylor, Edward Hartshorne (1861). Medical jurisprudence. Blanchard and Lea. p. 61. http://books.google.com/?id=4qZSb7EHzekC&pg=PA61. 
  12. ^ Joseph A. Maga, Anthony T. Tu (1995). Food additive toxicology. CRC Press. pp. 137–138. ISBN 0824792459. http://books.google.com/?id=6mGmxYqqiREC&pg=PA137. 

External links

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Tartaric acid — Tartaric Tar*tar ic, a. (Chem.) Of or pertaining to tartar; derived from, or resembling, tartar. [1913 Webster] {Tartaric acid}. (a) An acid widely diffused throughout the vegetable kingdom, as in grapes, mountain ash berries, etc., and obtained… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • tartaric acid — n. an acid, HOOC(CHOH) 2COOH, a clear, colorless crystal or a white, crystalline powder, found in vegetable tissues and fruit juices and obtained commercially from tartar: it is used in dyeing, photography, medicine, etc …   English World dictionary

  • tartaric acid — Chem. an organic compound, C4H6O6, existing in four isomeric forms, the common or dextrorotatory isomer being a white, crystalline, water soluble powder or transparent crystals: used in effervescent beverages, baking powders, confections,… …   Universalium

  • tartaric acid — Made from crude tartar; a laxative and refrigerant; used in the manufacture of various effervescing powders, tablets, and granules. * * * tar·tar·ic acid (.)tär .tar ik n a strong dicarboxylic acid C4H6O6 of plant origin that occurs in three… …   Medical dictionary

  • Tartaric acid — Strukturformel D (–) Form (links oben) und L (+) Form (rechts oben) sowie meso Form (unten) mit intramolekularer Spiegelebene ( ) Allgemeines Name …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • tartaric acid — vyno rūgštis statusas T sritis chemija formulė HOOC(CHOH)₂COOH atitikmenys: angl. tartaric acid rus. винная кислота ryšiai: sinonimas – 2,3 dihidroksibutano dirūgštis …   Chemijos terminų aiškinamasis žodynas

  • tartaric acid — noun a) a white crystalline acid that occurs naturally in many plants, and in wine; it is used as the salts cream of tartar and Rochelle salt b) The aldaric acid, 2,3 dihydroxy succinic acid Syn: erythraric acid …   Wiktionary

  • tartaric acid — noun an acid found in many fruits; used in soft drinks and confectionery and baking powder • Hypernyms: ↑hydroxy acid • Hyponyms: ↑racemic acid …   Useful english dictionary

  • tartaric acid — noun Date: 1810 a strong dicarboxylic acid C4H6O6 of plant origin that occurs in various isomeric forms, is usually obtained from tartar, and is used especially in food and medicines, in photography, in wine making, and in making salts and esters …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • tartaric acid — tar|tar|ic ac|id [ta:ˌtærık ˈæsıd US ta:r ] n [U] a strong acid that comes from a plant and is used in preparing some foods and medicines …   Dictionary of contemporary English

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