D-Glucaric acid

June 26, 2017
You’ll likely find me in your dishwasher detergent.
What molecule am I?

D-Glucaric acid, otherwise known as saccharic acid, is the product of oxidizing sugars or polysaccharides with nitric acid. German chemist Heinrich Kiliani described the reaction in 1925. Kiliani is better known for collaborating with Emil Fischer on a method for adding a carbon atom to a saccharide chain while preserving the sugar’s stereochemistry.

Glucaric acid’s only significant commercial value is the use of its sodium salt in dishwasher detergents. The acid acts as a chelating agent that ties up the hard-water calcium and magnesium ions to make the detergents more efficient. Sodium glucarate has replaced environmentally problematic phosphates in most detergents.

In February of this year, Rennovia (Santa Clara, CA) and Johnson Matthey (London) licensed their jointly developed glucaric acid manufacturing technology to Archer Daniels Midland (Chicago), which intends to commercialize the process. But Rivertop Renewables (Missoula, MT) was first to the market; it has manufactured the acid since 2015.

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