Citric acid is a weak organic acid that is a white, crystalline powder, that has many uses today and a rich history. Since its discovery, many have found uses for this compound, from biochemical uses to the use of it in cosmetics. It is also well known for its presence in our bodies.
Citric acid is thought to have been discovered in the Middle East in the 8th century, by a Muslim alchemist. However, in the late 1700′s, this organic acid was crystallized for the first time, from lemon juice by Carl Wilhelm Scheele,Citric acid powder a Swedish scientist. Between the late 1800′s and early to mid-1900′s, numerous scientists discovered that strains of certain bacteria could produce citric acid as a side product of their metabolic processes. It was from these two methods, isolation from fruit and harvesting from bacterial colonies, that this acid was starting to be produced.
Within our bodies, it is the product of the citric acid cycle, in which our bodies take glucose that we have ingested or received from the breakdown of glycogen in the liver, and convert it to citric acid to provide energy to our cells. This process occurs within the mitochondria of our cells, and is involved in many metabolic pathways such as glucagon and insulin signaling, ATP production and also the synthesis of fatty acids. The discovery of the Citric Acid Cycle in our bodies was such a revolutionary and important finding, that the scientist behind it, Hans Adolf Krebs, won the Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine in 1953.
Today, it is an important compound to the industrial sector. It has many uses, a major one being its use as a preservative in foods. It is also added to soda and other beverages to bring about a tart, tangy taste. It is used in numerous foods, such as ice cream and caramel. Also, it can be used in cooking as a substitute for vinegar.
This acid is also used in many house cleaning and up keep processes. It is used to soften water, through its ability to bind metals that reside in the water. It is used in soaps and some cleaning supplies, due to its ability to remove hard water stains from every day household objects. In fact, the chemical properties concerning interactions with certain metals, led to its use in the Manhattan Project.
In cosmetics, it is used in gels and cream to change the pH of a mixture. It is also used in the research and production of antiviral tissues.
Other uses include uses in food coloring and dyeing. It is often used as an alternative to vinegar when developing home dyes. Also, it is commonly used in photograph developing methods.