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palmitic acid[päl′mid·ik ′as·əd]
CH3(CH2)14COOH, a monobasic saturated carboxylic acid; colorless crystals. Melting point, 63.1°C; boiling point, 351.5°C. Palmitic acid is insoluble in water and moderately soluble in alcohol, benzene, and acetone. Along with stearic acid, it is the most widely distributed saturated fatty acid in nature, occurring as an ester of glycerol in nearly all the known natural fats. The average palmitic acid glyceride content in palm oil is 32–40 percent; in butter, 25 percent; in bean oil, 6.5 percent; and in pork fat, 30 percent. Esters of palmitic acid and higher alcohols form waxes; for example, the cetyl ester of palmitic acid is the principal constituent of spermaceti wax, and the myricyl ester is the main component of beeswax. Coenzyme A is involved in the biosynthesis and metabolism of palmitic acid.
Palmitic acid is usually isolated by rectification or fractional recrystallization from acid mixtures that are obtained through the saponification of fats. Certain palmitic acid esters are used in the manufacture of detergents and cosmetics. Palmitic acid salts, along with the salts of certain other carboxylic acids, are classified as detergents. In combination with stearic acid, palmitic acid is a constituent of stearin.
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