Maleic acid or cis-butenedioic acid is an organic compound that is a dicarboxylic acid, a molecule with two carboxyl groups. Its chemical formula is HO2CCH=CHCO2H. Maleic acid is the cis-isomer of butenedioic acid, whereas fumaric acid is the trans-isomer. It is mainly used as a precursor to fumaric acid, and relative to its parent maleic anhydride, maleic acid has few applications.
|Preferred IUPAC name
(Z)-Butenedioic acid; cis-Butenedioic acid; Malenic acid; Maleinic acid; Toxilic acid
3D model (JSmol)
CompTox Dashboard (EPA)
|Molar mass||116.072 g·mol−1|
|Density||1.59 g/cm3 |
|Melting point||135 °C (275 °F; 408 K) (decomposes)|
|478.8 g/L at 20 C|
|Acidity (pKa)||pka1 = 1.9|
pka2 = 6.07 
|H302, H315, H317, H319, H335|
|P261, P264, P270, P271, P272, P280, P301+P312, P302+P352, P304+P340, P305+P351+P338, P312, P321, P330, P332+P313, P333+P313, P337+P313, P362, P363, P403+P233, P405, P501|
|NFPA 704 (fire diamond)|
|Safety data sheet (SDS)||MSDS from J. T. Baker|
Related carboxylic acids
Except where otherwise noted, data are given for materials in their standard state (at 25 °C [77 °F], 100 kPa).
(what is ?)
Maleic acid has a heat of combustion of -1,355 kJ/mol., 22.7 kJ/mol higher than that of fumaric acid. Maleic acid is more soluble in water than fumaric acid. The melting point of maleic acid (135 °C) is also much lower than that of fumaric acid (287 °C). Both properties of maleic acid can be explained on account of the intramolecular hydrogen bonding that takes place in maleic acid at the expense of intermolecular interactions, and that are not possible in fumaric acid for geometric reasons.
Maleic acid may be used to form acid addition salts with drugs to make them more stable, such as indacaterol maleate.
Maleic acid is also used as an adhesion promoter for different substrates, such as nylon and zinc coated metals e.g galvanized steel, in methyl methacrylate based adhesives.
The major industrial use of maleic acid is its conversion to fumaric acid. This conversion, an isomerization, is catalysed by a variety of reagents, such as mineral acids and thiourea. Again, the large difference in water solubility makes fumaric acid purification easy.
The isomerization is a popular topic in schools. Maleic acid and fumaric acid do not spontaneously interconvert because rotation around a carbon carbon double bond is not energetically favourable. However, conversion of the cis isomer into the trans isomer is possible by photolysis in the presence of a small amount of bromine. Light converts elemental bromine into a bromine radical, which attacks the alkene in a radical addition reaction to a bromo-alkane radical; and now single bond rotation is possible. The bromine radicals recombine and fumaric acid is formed. In another method (used as a classroom demonstration), maleic acid is transformed into fumaric acid through the process of heating the maleic acid in hydrochloric acid solution. Reversible addition (of H+) leads to free rotation about the central C-C bond and formation of the more stable and less soluble fumaric acid.
Although not practised commercially, maleic acid can be converted into maleic anhydride by dehydration, to malic acid by hydration, and to succinic acid by hydrogenation (ethanol / palladium on carbon). It reacts with thionyl chloride or phosphorus pentachloride to give the maleic acid chloride (it is not possible to isolate the mono acid chloride). Maleic acid, being electrophilic, participates as a dienophile in many Diels-Alder reactions.
The maleate ion is the ionized form of maleic acid. The maleate ion is useful in biochemistry as an inhibitor of transaminase reactions. Maleic acid esters are also called maleates, for instance dimethyl maleate.