April 13, 2024
Fumaric Acid

Fumaric Acid: A Versatile Chemical Building Block

History and Production of Fumaric Acid
Fumaric acid was first isolated from fungi in 1822 by the French chemist Michel Eugène Chevreul. It occurs naturally in some plants and fungi and is part of the citric acid cycle. Fumaric acid is produced industrially via the hydration of maleic anhydride. Maleic anhydride is produced by steam cracking of N-butane. This produces a mixture of maleic anhydride and fumaric acid which are then separated. The global production of fumaric acid is approximately 120,000 tons per year and it has a wide variety of applications.

Uses of Fumaric Acid in Food Industry
One of the largest uses of Fumaric Acid is in the food industry, where it has various applications as an acidity regulator. It is used to add an acidic or tart taste to foods and beverages. Fumaric acid is labeled on food products as E number E297 and is considered safe for human consumption by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). Some common food-based uses of fumaric acid include fruit drinks, baked goods, meat products, cheese and more. It helps balance the pH of foods, enhances flavor and acts as a preservative by inhibiting bacterial growth. The usage levels vary from 50 to 2500 mg/kg depending on the food application. Overall fumaric acid has become an important flavoring agent and food additive in the global processed food industry.

Role in Animal Feed Supplements
In addition to food, another major end use of fumaric acid is in animal nutrition as a feed supplement. It is approved for use in cattle, pig and poultry feed by regulatory bodies. Fumaric acid enhances growth performance and efficiency in animals. It improves nutrient absorption and gut health by reducing intestinal pH levels and acting as an antimicrobial agent in feed. Studies have shown fumaric acid to increase weight gain and feed intake in broilers and promote lean tissue growth in swine. It helps maintain gastrointestinal health in cattle as well. On average, fumaric acid applications in animal feed account for around 20-25% of total industrial consumption annually on a global scale.

Applications in Unsaturated Polyester Resins
A large proportion of industrial fumaric acid production finds usage in unsaturated polyester resins and alkyd resins. Unsaturated polyester resins are thermoset polymers made from unsaturated polyester and cross linking co-polymer. Fumaric acid acts as the acid component which reacts with polyhydric alcohols to form unsaturated polyester polymers. These are further reacted with styrene or other co-polymers to produce thermosetting UP resins. The global UP resin market stands at approximately 6 million tons and over half of fumaric acid output goes into this application. UP resins have many uses in fiberglass boats, automotive parts, bathtubs, sinks, storage tanks etc due to their corrosion resistance and strength properties.

Pharmaceutical and Personal Care Applications
Besides the above industrial uses, fumaric acid also serves important roles in pharmaceutical and personal care applications leveraging its safety profile and biological functions. In medicine, it is used as an ingredient in some pills to treat psoriasis. Fumaric acid esters have shown efficacy as an oral therapy for psoriasis and multiple sclerosis. Externally, it finds use as an acidulant and pH regulator in topical creams and solutions. In personal care, fumaric acid helps provide acidity to shampoos, conditioners, facial cleansers and other skin/hair care formulations without being harsh or irritating. It serves as an exfoliating agent, humectant and thickening agent in these products. The use of fumaric acid continues growing in pharmaceuticals, nutraceuticals and cosmetic industries.

Other Notable Uses
Some other niche applications of fumaric acid that utilize its chemical properties are- as a precursor to manufacturing fumarate esters like dimethyl fumarate used in pharmaceuticals; as a pH regulator and corrosion inhibitor in various industries; as a fertilizer additive to improve nutrient availability in soils; as a feedstock for producing resins like polyester resins and alkyd resins; and in metal industry for rustproofing and descaling agents. Research is also ongoing into exploring its potential as a building block chemical for manufacturing bioplastics as a sustainable alternative to conventional plastics. Overall, versatile chemical properties and commercial viability have made fumaric acid an important industrial building block material globally.

1. Source: Coherent Market Insights, Public sources, Desk research
2. We have leveraged AI tools to mine information and compile it