Trichloroacetic Acid Formula: Structure, Properties and Uses

Trichloroacetic acid (TCA) formula is C2HCl3O2. It consists of two carbon (C) atoms, one oxygen (O) atom, and three chlorine (Cl) atoms. 

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Trichloroacetic acid, also known as TCA, TCAA, or trichloroethanoic acid, is an organic compound with a white crystalline appearance. Its systematic IUPAC name is trichloroacetic acid, and it is a strong acid that serves many purposes in the clinical chemical and biochemistry fields. Its salts and esters are commonly used in cosmetics and referred to as trichloroacetates. The compound was discovered by French Chemist Jean – Baptiste Dumas in 1839 and was later given the alternative name “aceto-caustin.” This discovery challenged the established beliefs of Swedish Chemist Jons Jakob Berzelius and his theory of organic radicals and valances. This sparked a lengthy debate between the two chemists, with Dumas being the first to question Berzelius’ results from electrochemical research. Before Dumas’ discovery, Berzelius’ research was widely accepted in the scientific community.

Structure of Trichloroacetic Acid 

Carbon atoms bonded to O, OH, and CCl3 groups are sp2 hybridized. Carbon atoms bonded to Cl3, COOH groups are sp3 hybridized.


Uses of Trichloroacetic acid (C2HCl3O2)

The acidic solid nature of trichloroacetic acid makes it suitable for various applications. Some of its applications are listed below.

  • In clinical chemistry, it is widely used to prepare formulations.
  • Among its applications in biochemistry are precipitating macromolecules, such as proteins, DNA, and RNA. It is also used in chemical peels and tattoo removal.
  • It is used in Cosmetics
  • Warts are chemoablated with it on the skin.
  • It can also be used on genital warts when diluted.
  • Skin infections can be treated with it even during pregnancy.
  • Until the 1980s, its sodium salt was used as an herbicide.

Also Check – Atomic Mass Formula

Properties of Trichloroacetic Acid 

Listed below are the physical and chemical properties of trichloroacetic acid

  • The molar mass of this compound is 163.38 g/mol.
  • The solid is white or colorless.
  • The smell is pungent and sharp.
  • It has a density of 1.63 and a melting point of 58°C.
  • The boiling point of this substance is 197°C.
  • It dissolves in water
  • With a pH of 1.2, it is acidic in nature.
  • Blue litmus paper turns red when it is exposed to it.
  • The pKa value of this compound is 0.66.
  • With a flash point over 93°C, it is a stable compound.
  • Water does not react with it.
  • Like other strong acids, it is corrosive.
  • The dipole moment of this object is 3.23 D.
  • Proteins react with it.

Also Check – Elevation of Boiling Point Formula

Preparation of Trichloroacetic Acid 

In the presence of a catalyst, chlorine gas reacts with acetic acid to produce it.

CH3COOH + 3Cl2 → CCl3COOH + 3HCl

Trichloroacetaldehyde can also be produced by its reaction with oxygen or by its oxidation.

Also Read – Malic Acid Formula

Effects of Trichloroacetic Acid on Health And Environment 

As a strong acid, trichloroacetic acid is corrosive. It can injure skin if overused. It can cause serious long-term or temporary injuries to rats when taken in large amounts (5000 mg/kg). It is harmful to the environment as well.

Trichloroacetic Acid Formula FAQs

Q1. What is Trichloroacetic Acid (TCA)?

Ans. Trichloroacetic Acid (TCA) is a strong organic acid commonly used in chemical, medical, and cosmetic applications. It is a white crystalline solid with a pungent odor and is highly soluble in water. TCA is often utilized as a chemical peeling agent in skincare treatments.

Q2. How is TCA used in chemical peels?

Ans. TCA is used in chemical peels to exfoliate and rejuvenate the skin. When applied to the skin, it causes controlled skin shedding, removing damaged outer layers and promoting the growth of new, healthier skin. It can improve skin texture, reduce fine lines, and treat certain skin conditions.

Q3. Is TCA safe for skin treatments?

Ans. TCA is generally safe when used by trained professionals for skin treatments. However, it can cause side effects like redness, swelling, and peeling, so it should be administered with caution. Proper post-treatment care and sun protection are essential to minimize potential risks.

Q4. Can TCA be used for other applications besides skincare?

Ans. Yes, TCA has various industrial and laboratory applications. It is used in chemistry as a reagent, in the production of chemicals, and for protein precipitation in biochemistry. It's also employed for the removal of tattoos, warts, and in some cases, as a weed killer.

Q5. What precautions should be taken when handling TCA?

Ans. TCA is a corrosive substance and should be handled with care. Protective gear like gloves and goggles should be worn when working with it. Proper ventilation is necessary as inhaling its fumes can be harmful. Additionally, it should be stored in a cool, dry place away from incompatible chemicals and substances.

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