What is Acrylic Acid?

Acrylic acid (also known as 2-proenoic acid, vinyl formic acid, and propene acid) is a clear, colourless, corrosive, and flammable liquid that has an acrid/pungent odour. It has the formula C3H4Oand is miscible with water, alcohol, ether, benzene, chloroform, and acetone. Acrylic acid is very versatile and valuable as it is a chemical intermediate utilised in the production of many industrial and consumer products.

Acrylic Acid chemical structure

Acrylic Acid Production

Acrylic acid manufacturers produce this chemical by the vapour-phase oxidation of propylene. This process involves two reactors, with the first reactor converting the propylene to acrolein and the second converting the acrolein to acrylic acid.

This method is quite expensive due to the propylene however there are some cheaper options that may be more suitable. Another commercial manufacturing process involves the sequential oxidative dehydrogenation of selective oxidation of propane to acrylic acid using a two-catalyst bed in a reactor.

How is it stored and distributed?

Acrylic acid is sensitive to heat and sunlight and should be stored in a cool, dry and well-ventilated chemical store that is free from all sources of ignition. This is why acrylic acid suppliers transport it in stainless steel or aluminium tank trucks, railroad tankers, barges, and in polyethylene drums. It’s also supplied with inhibitors that prevent hazardous polymerisation as it can become quite unstable. 

It has a flashpoint of 50 o C (closed cup) and is therefore flammable and it has a specific gravity of 1.05.  For transportation purposes, it’s classified as pack group II, hazard class 8 and should it be labelled as corrosive, flammable, and dangerous to the environment.

What is Acrylic Acid used for?

Acrylic acid is an important industrial chemical as it is a chemical intermediate that is employed in the production processes of many common industrial and consumer products.

There are two main uses for acrylic acid. The first is to use it as a chemical intermediate in the production of acrylic esters and resins which include ethyl acrylate, butyl acrylate, methyl acrylate, and 2-ethylhexyl acrylate. They are then polymerised and become ingredients in paint formulations, coatings, textiles (woven and non-woven), adhesives, polishes, and plastics. Methyl acrylate is also used in the manufacturing of vitamin B1. The resins are employed in such things as moulding powders for signs, construction units, and decorative emblems.

The second major use for acrylic acid is as a building block in the production of polyacrylic acid polymers.  These polymers are cross-linked polyacrylates and are super absorbent with the ability to absorb and retain more than one hundred times their own weight.  They are used to make nappies, and feminine hygiene products.

Acrylic acid is also utilised in the production of detergent polymers and in the production of flocculants which are employed in waste water treatment plants.

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