Tartaric acid, sometimes called racemic acid, is an alpha-hydroxy-carboxylic acid that naturally occurs in plants, wine, and many fruits, such as grapes, tamarinds, citrus, and bananas. The acid is available as a white crystalline solid that’s soluble in water. Its salt, commonly referred to as cream of tartar, is created naturally through fermentation. Tartaric acid’s extra fine particles and anti-caked properties enhance its efficacy in various applications.
All three forms of tartaric acid (L-tartaric acid, D-tartaric acid and mesotartaric acid) have the same chemical formula but different atom arrangements. L-tartaric acid occurs naturally, while mesotartaric acid and D-tartaric acid are synthetically produced.
Applications of Tartaric Acid
Racemic acid is used in various industrial applications. The most general uses of the acid include:
Tartaric acid is widely used as a retarding agent in oilfield applications as well as in cementitious-based systems. It is regarded as one of the most effective and works by slowing the curing or hardening of cement by impeding certain chemical reactions during the cement hydration process. This acid retards various steps, including ettringite formation and C3A hydration.
Due to its sour taste, Tartaric acid is used to add a sharp flavour to various foods. It can be used as a preservative additive in carbonated beverages, effervescent tablets, and gelatin. Cream of tartar is an essential ingredient for hard candy.
When tartaric acid is used in food, it provides several health benefits. It is an excellent source of antioxidants that significantly helps to boost immunity and enhances the body’s glucose tolerance.
In the pharmaceutical industry, tartaric acid is applied in several formulations for effervescent powder, therapeutic compounds, heart disease medications, and antibiotics. Tartaric acid is also used to produce effervescent salt that improves the taste of oral medicines.
Tartaric acid is used in silver and gold plating, tanning leather, producing blueprint ink, and polishing and cleaning metals. It is also an ingredient in Rochelle Salt, combined with silver nitrate to create the reflectiveness in mirrors.
Commercial Production of Tartaric Acid
If you have seen the tiny crystals that form at the bottom of a wine bottle (wine diamonds), you have seen tartaric acid in action. The by-products of the wine fermentation process are heated with a base (calcium hydroxide).
Calcium tartrate then forms a precipitate that is further mixed with sulfuric acid, producing calcium sulphate and tartaric acid. The two substances are then separated, followed by the purification of tartaric acid for commercial application.
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