Tartaric acid

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

Tartaric acid is a white crystalline diprotic organic acid. It occurs naturally in many plants, particularly grapes, bananas, and tamarinds, 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 dihydroxy derivative of succinic acid.

Tartaric acid was first isolated from potassium tartrate, known to the ancients as tartar, c. 800 by the Islamic 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 asymmetric. By manually sorting the different "handed" crystals under magnification, Pasteur was the first to produce a pure sample of levotartaric acid.[4][5][6][7]

Contents

Stereochemistry

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]

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