From cleaning windows to preserving Lenin’s body, acetic acid has well-earned its label as a multi-purpose chemical.
In this feature of Product Focus we examine the versatility of acetic acid and the reasons why demand is set to soar through the roof in the next five years.
Most commonly identified as the main component of vinegar, acetic acid is present in the kitchen cupboards of homes up and down the country, famous for its distinctive smell and sour taste, but acetic acid is so much more than a condiment for fish and chips.
One of a group of organic compounds it is miscible with other liquids such as water, esters and ethyl alcohol making it easy to incorporate fully into other solutions in any dilution.
Its biggest market sector is in the production of vinyl acetate monomer (VAM) with around one third of the world’s acetic acid consumption going into this product, which is widely used in the production of coatings, plastics, textile treatments and pigments.
Acetic acid is also used in purified terephthalic acid and polyethylene terephthalate, commonly used in the multi-million pound food and beverage industry in packaging and the production of water bottles.
In a more simple form, the chemical is used around the home and in industrial settings as a descaler in irons and toilet cleaners, and in pesticides and fungicides.
One of its most appealing features and why it is enjoying a surge in demand is that it is an environmentally-friendly, biodegradable form of acid, which is less corrosive than other inorganic acids.
Even the founder of the Soviet Union, Vladimir Lenin has benefitted from this adaptable chemical with hundreds of thousands of dollars being spent by the Russian government on the embalmment of the communist leader’s body. A bath of acetic acid solution is one of a number of treatments the body is submerged in in a quest to keep the remains in a mummy-like state.
Acetic acid has recently been used in higher than normal volumes in vinegar to kill weeds as a safer and non-cancerous alternative to commercial weed killers in the city of Bristol when under-pressure councillors used the vinegar-based herbicide on unwanted plants in the area. The acetic acid ratio was ramped up as it is the acetic acid content of vinegar which is the active ingredient and destroys the cell membranes in plant foliage, causing the tissues to dry out.
With these many applications and end-uses it is easy to see why it’s a product which continues to show strong growth in sales.
Recent reports have predicted that the global market for acetic acid will grow from US$ 9,075 million to US$ 14,784 by 2022. This equates to an increase in tonnage from 12,100 kilos in 2014, to 16,824. China is one of the largest consumers of acetic acid and with its domination of the industrial world set to continue it is projected to contribute extensively to the continuous growth of the acetic acid market.
The rising demand in acetic acid in uses such as textiles, construction, automotive, pesticides and food ingredients have fuelled the surge in production. A move towards more bio-based chemicals like acetic acid in the manufacture of these products has created new market opportunities making for an exciting future in the acetic acid market.
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