Encyclopedia of Astrobiology

Living Edition
| Editors: Muriel Gargaud, William M. Irvine, Ricardo Amils, Henderson James Cleaves, Daniele Pinti, José Cernicharo Quintanilla, Michel Viso

Carboxylic Acid

  • Henderson James (Jim) CleavesII
Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-642-27833-4_238-4


In chemistry, carboxylic acids are organic acids that contain a carboxyl functional group. The general formula of a carboxylic acid is R-COOH. Carboxylic acids are proton donors. Some common examples are formic acid, H-COOH, and acetic acid, CH3COOH. There are many carboxylic acids of biological importance, for example, fatty acid esters are important components of many cell membranes, proteins are polymers of amino acids, and many compounds in intermediary metabolism are carboxylic acids. Common prebiotic syntheses of carboxylic acids proceed via the hydrolysis of precursor nitriles.

Because they are both hydrogen-bond acceptors and hydrogen-bond donors, they are able to participate in hydrogen bonding. Carboxylic acids tend to have higher boiling points than water partly because of their tendency to form hydrogen-bonded dimers. Carboxylic acids are polar: short-chain aliphatic carboxylic acids (e.g., those containing one to five carbon atoms) are soluble in water, whereas...


Formic Acid Carboxylic Acid Boiling Point Acid Ester Fatty Acid Ester 
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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Earth-Life Science Institute (ELSI), Tokyo Institute of TechnologyMeguro-kuJapan
  2. 2.Institute for Advanced StudyPrincetonUSA
  3. 3.Blue Marble Space Institute of ScienceWashingtonUSA
  4. 4.Center for Chemical EvolutionGeorgia Institute of TechnologyAtlantaUSA