All About Acetaldehyde

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By Dr Frances Wright

Reportedly Acetaldehyde can be considered as one of the most important aldehydes. As a result, it is produced on a very large scale in the industry. This is due to its wide variety of uses and functions.

It is a colourless liquid with a strong odour. Acetaldehyde occurs widely in nature. Organically, it can be found in coffee, bread, ripe fruits and is produced by plants. Acetaldehyde can also be manufactured by the hydration of acetylene and the oxidation of ethanol. The most commonly used process for the manufacturing of Acetaldehyde is the Wacker process.

The Wacker process was developed between 1957 and 1959. This process catalyses the oxidation of ethylene to Acetaldehyde. As a carcinogenic, it is essential that Acetaldehyde be used correctly with experienced care and techniques, especially when used as an additive and preservative in foods.

Some of the most common uses of Acetaldehyde are as follows:

  • Additive and preservative in foods and beverages
  • Added to fizzy drinks and flavours
  • As a flavouring agent in small doses it allows for a floral, green apple aroma
  • It is also known as a product of alcohol fermentation and along with other volatile compounds it contributes to the wine aroma
  • It has also been used to harden gelatin

Other uses include:

  • An intermediate in the synthesis of other chemicals
  • In the flavours and fragrances industry it is often used in the production of perfumes
  • In fuel compositions
  • As a solvent in the rubber, tanning and paper industries
  • In the production of: polyester resins, basic dyes, paints, coatings, adhesives, sealants, paper products and plastic and rubber products

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