Terephthalic acid

Terephthalic acid is an organic compound with formula C6H4(CO2H)2. This white solid is a commodity chemical, used principally as a precursor to the polyester PET, used to make clothing and plastic bottles. Several million tonnes are produced annually.[2] The common name is derived from the turpentine-producing tree Pistacia terebinthus and phthalic acid.


Terephthalic acid was first isolated (from turpentine) by the French chemist Amédée Cailliot (1805–1884) in 1846.[3] Terephthalic acid became industrially important after World War II. Terephthalic acid was produced by oxidation of p-xylene with dilute nitric acid. Air oxidation of p-xylene gives p-toluic acid, which resists further air-oxidation. Conversion of p-toluic acid to methyl p-toluate (CH3C6H4CO2CH3) opens the way for further oxidation to monomethyl terephthalate, which is further esterified to dimethyl terephthalate. In 1955, Mid-Century Corporation and ICI announced the bromide-promoted oxidation of p-toluic acid to teraphthalic acid. This innovation enabled the conversion of p-xylene to terephthalic acid without the need to isolate intermediates. Amoco (as Standard Oil of Indiana) purchased the Mid-Century/ICI technology.

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