racemic acid

racemic acid

racemic acid: see tartaric acid.
Racemic acid is an old name for an optically inactive or racemic form of tartaric acid. It is an equal mixture of two mirror-image isomers (enantiomers), optically active in opposing directions.

Its sodium-ammonium salt is unusual among racemic mixtures in that during crystallization it can separate out into two kinds of crystals, each composed of one isomer, and whose macroscopic shapes are mirror images of each other. Louis Pasteur was thus able to separate the two enantiomers by picking apart the crystals.

In a modern-time re-enactment of the Pasteur experiment it was established that the preparation of crystals was not very reproducible, the crystals deformed but that the crystals were large enough to inspect with the naked eye (microscope not required).

See also


  1. The reexamination of Pasteur’s experiment in Japan Yoshito Tobe Mendeleev Communications Electronic Version, Issue 3, 2003 DOI article Free access version with experimental details
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