Difference Between Mineral Acids and Organic Acids

Main Difference – Mineral Acids vs Organic Acids

Acids are chemical compounds that have acidic properties. An acid can also be defined as a chemical species that can react with a base, forming a salt and water. There are two main types of acids as strong acids and weak acids. Acids can also be categorized as mineral acids and organic acids depending on the chemical composition. The main difference between mineral acid and organic acid is that mineral acids are inorganic compounds composed of different chemical element combinations whereas organic acids are organic compounds essentially composed of carbon and hydrogen atoms.

Key Areas Covered

1. What are Mineral Acids
     – Definition, Properties, Examples
2. What are Organic Acids
     – Definition, Properties
3. What are the Similarities Between Mineral acids and Organic Acids
     – Outline of Common Features
4. What is the Difference Between Mineral Acids and Organic Acids
     – Comparison of Key Differences

Key Terms: Acid, Carbon, Conjugated Base, Corrosive, Inorganic Acid, Mineral Acid, Organic Acid

Difference Between Mineral Acids and Organic Acids - Comparison Summary

What are Mineral Acids

Mineral acids or inorganic acids are acids that are derived from an inorganic compound. Therefore, inorganic acids are inorganic compounds having acidic properties. Some inorganic acids have oxygen atoms in their structure whereas some inorganic acids do not. For example, H2SO4 is an inorganic acid having oxygen atoms. But HCN, which is another inorganic acid, does not have oxygen atoms.

Some inorganic acids may have carbon atoms while other inorganic acids do not have carbon in their chemical structure (unlike inorganic acids, organic acids are necessarily composed of carbon). For example, HCN has a carbon atom although it is an inorganic acid. HCN is not an organic acid because the only C-H bond it has is easily dissociated into H+ ion and CN ion in water, unlike in organic compounds.

Difference Between Mineral Acids and Organic Acids

Figure 1: Nitric Acid Fuming

Mineral acids are highly water-soluble but insoluble in organic solvents. Most mineral acids are highly corrosive. The most common mineral acids are sulfuric acid, hydrochloric acid, and nitric acid. Mineral acids have many applications including the synthesis of both organic and inorganic compounds. However, these acids are highly corrosive.

What are Organic Acids

Organic acids are organic compounds having acidic properties. Since these are organic compounds, organic acids must have a carbon atom in their structure. The most common type of organic acid is carboxylic acid. The molecular formula of a carboxylic acid can be given as RCOOH. The functional group which causes the acidic property is –COOH. The hydrogen atom in this group can be released as an H+ ion. This is because Oxygen atom is rich with electrons and is more electronegative than H atom. Thus, this H atom can be easily separated from –COOH group.

Key Difference - Mineral Acids vs Organic Acids

Figure 2: Acetic acid is an Organic Acid

Due to acidic characteristics, organic acids show a pH value which is less than 7. These acids can turn blue litmus red and are sour in taste. There are two types of organic acids.

  • Strong Organic Acids
  • Weak Organic Acids

Weak acids exist in equilibriums with their conjugate base and H+ ion in a solution whereas strong acids are fully dissociated and do not have equilibriums in an aqueous solution. Most organic acids are weak acids (ex: ethanoic acid) due to their partial dissociation in water. But almost all organic acids are dissolved in organic solvents. The stability of the anion formed after dissociation makes an organic acid a strong acid or a weak acid.

Similarities Between Mineral Acids and Organic Acids

  • Both substances have acidic properties
  • Both types can release protons (H+ ions)
  • Both can react with bases
  • Both types can turn blue litmus red.
  • Both types have some strong and weak acids.

Difference Between Mineral Acids and Organic Acids

Definition

Mineral Acids: Mineral acids or inorganic acids are acids that are derived from an inorganic compound.

Organic Acids: Organic acids are organic compounds having acidic properties.

Origin

Mineral Acids: Most mineral acids have a non-biological origin such as mineral sources.

Organic Acids: Most organic acids have a biological origin.

Solubility

Mineral Acids: Most mineral acids dissolve well in water.

Organic Acids: Organic acids dissolve poorly in water.

Acidity

Mineral Acids: Most mineral acids are strong acids.

Organic Acids: Organic acids are typically weak acids.

Chemical Composition

Mineral Acids: Mineral acids may or may not have carbon atoms in their structure.

Organic Acids: Organic acids essentially have carbon atoms in their structure.

Conclusion

Acids can be classified as organic acids and mineral acids. Mineral acids are also known as inorganic acids. The main difference between mineral acid and organic acid is that mineral acids are inorganic compounds composed of different chemical element combinations whereas organic acids are organic compounds essentially composed of carbon and hydrogen atoms.

References:

1. Helmenstine, Anne Marie, “Mineral Acid Definition and List.” ThoughtCo, Aug. 10, 2017, Available here.
2. “Organic acid.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 4 Dec. 2017, Available here.

Image Courtesy:

1. “Nitric acid fuming” By W. Oelen –  (CC BY-SA 3.0) via Commons Wikimedia
2. “Acetic acid atoms” By Vuo at English Wikipedia – Own work (Public Domain) via Commons Wikimedia

About the Author: Madhusha

Madhusha is a BSc (Hons) graduate in the field of Biological Sciences and is currently pursuing for her Masters in Industrial and Environmental Chemistry. Her interest areas for writing and research include Biochemistry and Environmental Chemistry.

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