What is butyric acid? (with photos)

Butyric acid, usually butyrate, allows the smell of sour butter to be detected through the nose.

Butyric acid, also known as butanoic acid, is a colorless, oily chemical with the formula CH 3 CH 2 CH 2 -COOH that occurs in many dairy products, particularly milk, and is also a by-product of fermentation in many cases. It tends to have a slightly rancid smell when isolated and is the main cause of the foul odor associated with human vomit and flatulence. It is a common addition to stink bombs for this reason. Some of its chemical derivatives and esters have a sweet smell; very much depends on the presentation and the precise chemical composition.

Basic characteristics

Butyric acid’s smelly properties make it a major component in making stink bombs.

Acid is a liquid at room temperature and is made predominantly of fats. It freezes at 17.8°F (about -8°C) and boils at 326.3°F (163.5°C). Despite its stability, the acid is susceptible to hydrolysis, a chemical process in which water molecules break apart into isolated atoms of hydrogen and oxygen, taking with them almost all the cells to which they are attached. In fact, the acid’s name derives from the Latin word butyrum, or “butter,” which is where it was supposedly first discovered and isolated. Butter is usually up to 4% acidic, and when it spoils, hydrolysis degradation causes it to give off a disgusting sour smell. The same smell is associated with most spoiled dairy products.

Production and Fermentation

Butyric acid is the main component of human vomit and the cause of its bad smell.

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This compound is prepared on a large scale by fermenting starch or sugar. Fermentation uses microorganisms and takes place under conditions where there is no oxygen to transform glucose into these compounds. Microbes gain energy from this process. Less energy is produced than if the compounds were transformed in the presence of oxygen.

Humans have butyric acid in their digestive tract, and it’s one of many stomach acids that breaks down food.

Several species of bacteria also produce it as a product of fermentation. These types of bacteria often thrive in places where there is no oxygen, such as the rumen of cows and goats. The rumen is a special digestive organ that helps in the breakdown of plant compounds that would otherwise be extremely difficult to break down. Bacteria inside the organ generate butyrate from the plant fibers they consume. This is also one of the main reasons the compound appears in dairy products such as milk, butter and most yogurts. In many cases, it is also produced as a by-product in some marine sediments.

Role in digestion

Humans also have this acid in their digestive tract, and it’s one of many stomach acids that helps break down food for energy. The colon also produces it as a by-product of some types of fiber digestion, particularly oats and raw bran. Many experts say this acid is the main reason why human gas and flatulence stink in so many cases. Acid is also often the main component of vomit and is often responsible for its characteristic sour smell.

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like a weapon

The acid’s stench has led to its use in stink bombs and tools used by police and political activists in many parts of the world. Stink bombs are also used in various protests, often as a way to damage property or shut down services, even if only temporarily. Acid attacks have been well documented in abortion clinics, for example, and against whalers and whaling boats.

Derivatives and esters

When carboxylic acids are exposed to certain alcohols or phenols, they typically break down and form slightly new structures known as “esters.” This happens with butyric acid in various circumstances and the results – while chemically similar to the original – are often very different in terms of basic properties and characteristics.

When this happens with butyric compounds, the hydrogen group on the COOH is replaced by an organic compound to form an ester known as a butanoate. These types of compounds are found in many vegetable oils and animal fats, which makes them relatively common, and they typically have very different properties. In particular, they generally smell and taste pleasant, which makes them useful in the food and perfume industry.

Another common chemical derivative is phenylbutyric acid. This compound is used as an intermediate in various chemical processes. Indole butyric acid, for example, is a plant growth hormone that causes sprouts to develop roots and helps speed up the delivery of nutrients to cells.

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