Chem Explorers

Formic Acid: A Versatile and Sustainable Compound for Industries

Formic Acid: A Versatile Compound for Various Industries

Have you ever encountered ants and wondered why they give off a pungent smell? The answer is simple: the scent comes from formic acid.

But what is formic acid? It is a colorless liquid with a pungent odor and is classified as a carboxylic acid.

In this article, we will delve into the properties and industrial uses of formic acid.

Properties of Formic Acid

IUPAC Name: Methanoic acid or formylic acid

Chemical Formula: HCOOH

CAS Number: 64-18-6

Chemical Classification: Carboxylic acid

Molar Mass: 46.03 g/mol

Color: Colorless

Viscosity: Temperature-dependent

Molar Density: 1.22 g/mL

Melting Point: 8.4C

Boiling Point: 100.8C

State at Room Temperature: Liquid

Covalent Bond: Carbon-hydrogen bond, carbon-oxygen double bond, carbon-hydroxyl group bond

Electron Configurations: Carbon, hydrogen, oxygen

Oxidation State: +2

Acidity/Alkaline: Acidic

Odor: Pungent

Paramagnetism: Diamagnetic

Hydrates: Trihydrate

Crystal Structure: Orthorhombic

Polarity and Conductivity: Polar, Conductive

Formic acid consists of carbon-hydrogen bonds, carbon-oxygen double bonds, and carbon-hydroxyl group bonds. It has a polar nature, and hence it is a good conductor.

Formic acid’s chemical structure makes it a vital component in various industries.

Production and Industrial Uses of Formic Acid

Source: Ants

You read that right! Ants are one of the sources of formic acid. Most ants produce formic acid in their venom glands, which they use for defense.

But commercially, formic acid is produced through methanol. Industrial Production: Methanol

Formic acid is commercially produced through methanol.

In the presence of carbon monoxide and water, methanol forms formic acid. Methanol is a cheaper and easier source to get formic acid.

Antibacterial Properties: Agriculture Industry, Pesticide

Formic acid is widely used in the agriculture industry as a pesticide against mites, ticks, and fleas. It is water-soluble and biodegradable, making it an ideal choice among farmers.

Additionally, it is a good antimicrobial agent and a preservative. Uses in Manufacturing: Leather, Rubber

Formic acid also has various industrial applications.

One of the most common is in leather processing, where formic acid helps to remove hair from the hides. In the rubber industry, it acts as a coagulating agent, aiding in the production of latex.

Formic acid is also used as a preservative of silage and animal feed. It’s used in the cleaning and degreasing of metal surfaces, and as an ingredient in dyeing and printing textiles.

Additionally, formic acid is an essential compound for making methoxyethane, which is a solvent for some risky compounds.


Formic acid is an important industrial compound with diverse uses. It is an eco-friendly and sustainable alternative to toxic chemicals in the pesticide industry.

With its polar nature, it’s an ideal conductor and is thus used in various electrical devices. The production process is simple, and it can be sourced from numerous sources.

As the world shifts towards a more sustainable future, formic acid will play a crucial role in providing sustainable solutions to various challenges. Reactions of Formic Acid: Exploring Its Chemical Properties

Formic acid is a versatile compound with diverse applications in various industries.

One of its critical properties is its ability to react with different substances. In this article’s extension, we delve deep into formic acid’s reactions with bases, acids, oxides, and metals.

With Acids: Dehydration

Formic acid can undergo various reactions depending on the conditions. When reacting with another acid, formic acid undergoes dehydration, forming anhydrides.

The reaction occurs in the presence of a dehydrating agent such as sulfuric acid. The product formed is a carboxylic acid anhydride.


The resulting carboxylic acid anhydrides are essential intermediates in the synthesis of various organic compounds. With Bases: Ammonium Formate

When reacting with bases, formic acid forms ammonium formate, a white crystalline solid.

Ammonium formate is commonly used in the manufacturing of formamides, which find applications in the pharmaceutical industry. HCOOH + NH3 NH4HCOO


With Oxides: Reduction, Fehling Solution, and Cuprous Oxide

Formic acid can undergo several reactions with oxides, including reduction and various tests.

One of the tests used in organic chemistry is the Fehling test, a chemical test used to differentiate between aldehydes and ketones. During the Fehling test, the aldehyde reduces the copper-containing reagent, Fehling’s solution.

This forms cuprous oxide while formic acid is oxidized to carbon dioxide and water. 2Cu2+ + 5HCOOH + 2OH- Cu2O + 2CO2 + 3H2O

The precipitate formed is cuprous oxide, which is a red powder that has many applications in various industries.

This reaction is also commonly referred to as the Benedict’s test. With Metals: Sodium Formate and Dehydrogenation

Formic acid also has the ability to react with metals, forming the respective metal formate.

Sodium formate, for example, is formed when formic acid reacts with sodium metal. This reaction results in the generation of hydrogen gas as a by-product.

HCOOH + Na HCOONa + 1/2 H2

Formic acid can release hydrogen when reacting with a metal at high temperatures, a reaction known as dehydrogenation. This hydrogen production ability makes formic acid a potential candidate as a hydrogen carrier in the fuel cell industry.

Formic acid has also been used in the dehydrogenation of various compounds, including alcohols, aromatics, and alkanes. CH3OH CO + 2H2

C6H6 C6H5OH C6H5OH2+ C6H5OH + 1/2H2

CH4 CH3OH + H2


Formic acid is a versatile and useful compound with diverse applications in various industries, including pharmaceutical, agriculture, and textile. The ability to react with different compounds makes formic acid an excellent candidate for many applications.

Its reactions with acids result in the formation of anhydrides, while its reactions with bases form ammonium formate. Formic acid also undergoes several tests with oxides, including reduction and Fehling’s solution.

Lastly, formic acid is also useful when reacting with metals, giving metal formate and as a dehydrogenation catalyst. In conclusion, formic acid is an essential compound with diverse applications in various industries, including agriculture, pharmaceuticals, and rubber production.

Its versatile chemical properties include reactions with acids, bases, oxides, and metals, making it a crucial component in many chemical processes. Key takeaways include its eco-friendly nature, easy production, and sustainability.

Therefore, formic acid is an excellent candidate for the world’s shift towards a sustainable future. FAQs:


What are the industrial uses of formic acid? Formic acid is used in agriculture, leather processing, rubber production, and cleaning and degreasing of metal surfaces.

2. How is formic acid produced commercially?

Formic acid is produced through methanol in the presence of carbon monoxide and water. 3.

What are formic acid’s reactions with metals and what are they used for? Formic acid reacts with metals like sodium, forming metal formate and can act as a catalyst for dehydrogenation.

4. Is formic acid eco-friendly?

Yes, formic acid is biodegradable and a sustainable alternative to toxic chemicals. 5.

What are the properties of formic acid? Formic acid is a colorless, pungent liquid with a density of 1.22g/mL and a boiling point of 100.8C.

It has a polar nature, making it an ideal conductor.

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