Palmitic acid

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Structural formula
Structural formula of palmitic acid
Surname Palmitic acid
other names
  • Hexadecanoic acid ( IUPAC )
  • Cetylic acid
Molecular formula C 16 H 32 O 2
Brief description

colorless, crystalline platelets

External identifiers / databases
CAS number 57-10-3
EC number 200-312-9
ECHA InfoCard 100,000,284
PubChem 985
ChemSpider 960
DrugBank DB03796
Wikidata Q209727
Molar mass 256.43 g mol −1
Physical state



0.8577 g cm −3

Melting point

62.5-63 ° C

boiling point

351 ° C

Vapor pressure

1.3 · 10 −7 Pa (298 K)

Refractive index


safety instructions
GHS labeling of hazardous substances
no GHS pictograms
H and P phrases H: no H-phrases
P: no P-phrases

not forgiven

Toxicological data

> 10000 mg kg −1 ( LD 50ratoral )

As far as possible and customary, SI units are used. Unless otherwise noted, the data given apply to standard conditions . Refractive index: Na-D line , 20 ° C

Palmitic acid (hexadecanoic acid) is a saturated organic acid and is a fatty acid (= higher carboxylic acid ). Palmitates (systematically also hexadecanoates ) are the salts and esters of palmitic acid. Palmitic acid is a colorless solid at room temperature.

In many living organisms, palmitate is a main intermediate product of the metabolism , from which all other fatty acids are made in the form of glycerides for building up fat reserves . The biosynthesis of palmitate takes place in lipogenesis from small molecular precursors in a repetitive process in which two carbon molecules are attached to the molecular chain with each step.

The name comes from the first palmitic acid, obtained by hydrolysis of palm oil by Edmond Frémy (1840).


The pulp of the oil palm provides palm oil, the triglycerides of which are rich in palmitic acid residues.

The palmitic acid residue is the saturated fatty acid residue most frequently found in many vegetable and animal fats and fatty oils as glycerine esters :

product Palmitic acid content
Stillingia oil 60-70%
Palm oil 41-46%
Butterfat 24-32%
Lard 24-30%
Cocoa butter 23-30%
Beef tallow 23-29%
Cottonseed oil 21-27%
Avocado oil 10-26%

Contrary to popular belief, natural fats and oils do not contain free palmitic acid, but its glycerol esters .

Physical Properties

The flash point is> 160 ° C, the ignition temperature is 240 ° C and the lower explosion limit is 0.42% by volume.


The reliable qualitative and quantitative determination of palmitic acid in a wide variety of test materials is possible after adequate sample preparation and transesterification to the methyl ester by coupling capillary gas chromatography with mass spectrometry .


Palmitates are widely used in cosmetics .

The aluminum salt of palmitic acid forms, together with the aluminum salt of naphthenic acid, the thickening agent of the fire weapon Napalm whose name is composed of the initial syllables of the acids ( Na phthensäure, Palm itinsäure).

An alcoholic potassium palmitate solution (standardized soft soap ) is used to determine the total hardness in water.

Web links

Wiktionary: Palmitic acid  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Wikibooks: Saturated Fatty Acids Biosynthesis  - Learning and Teaching Materials

Individual evidence

  1. Entry on PALMITIC ACID in the CosIng database of the EU Commission, accessed on December 28, 2019.
  2. a b c d e f g Entry on palmitic acid. In: Römpp Online . Georg Thieme Verlag, accessed on June 20, 2014.
  3. a b David R. Lide (Ed.): CRC Handbook of Chemistry and Physics . 96th edition. (Internet version :), CRC Press / Taylor and Francis, Boca Raton, FL, Physical Constants of Organic Compounds, pp. 3-294.
  4. a b c d e f Entry for CAS no. 57-10-3 in the GESTIS substance database of the IFA , accessed on December 20, 2019 (JavaScript required)
  5. CD Cappa, ER Lovejoy, AR Ravishankara: Evaporation Rates and Vapor Pressures of the Even-Numbered C 8 −C 18 Monocarboxylic Acids. In: J. Phys. Chem. A 112, 2008, pp. 3959-3964. doi: 10.1021 / jp710586m
  6. ^ DM Cassidy, DA Pratt, R. Taylor, KG Alberti, MF Laker: Capillary column gas chromatography-mass spectrometry for the determination of the fatty acid composition of human adipose tissue. In: J Chromatogr. 491 (1), Jun 30, 1989, pp. 1-13. PMID 2793965
  7. NN Ahmad Nizar, JM Nazrim Marikkar, DM Hashim: Differentiation of lard, chicken fat, beef fat and mutton fat by GCMS and EA-IRMS techniques. In: J Oleo Sci. 62 (7), 2013, pp. 459-464. PMID 23823911
  8. ^ X. Dong, Y. Gao, M. Zeng, M. Liu, W. Li, Q. Liu, B. Wang: Analysis of meibum by gas chromatography-mass spectrometry. In: Zhonghua Yan Ke Za Zhi. 51 (9), Sep 2015, pp. 668-672. (Chinese) PMID 26693651