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What is Saponification?

by Joy_Chemistry

Saponification is the hydrolysis of an ester with NaOH or KOH to give alcohol and sodium or potassium salt of the acid.

The process involves making of soaps, they are just long chain fatty acids salts of potassium and calcium.

The process involves the reaction of the ester with an inorganic base producing alcohol and soap.

Generally,the reaction shows the reaction of triglycerides with potassium or sodium hydroxide (lye) that results in the formation of glycerol and fatty acid salt called “ soap”.

Saponification Reaction

Generally the triglycerides are fats of animals and vegetable oils.

However when triglycerides react with sodium hydroxide , a hard form of soap emerges, potassium enters at this step and forms a softer form of soap.

The equation can be written as:

Ester + Base ————–> Alcohol + Soap

Saponification Value or saponification number refers to the amount of base that it require to saponify a fat sample.

Saponification value is the numerical value that indicates the number of milligrams that needs to saponify 1 gram of fat under specified conditions.

However when sodium hydroxide is utilised in  saponification, the saponification value must be converted from potassium to sodium by dividing the KOH values by the ratio of the molecular weights of KOH and NaOH 

Effects of Saponification

The effects can be either be desirable or undesirable. Few of the effect are mention below.

Saponification is extensively useful in fire extinguishers . During the process the wet chemical fire extinguishers converts the burning fats and oils into into non-combustible soap that helps to extinguish the fire.

However the reaction is endothermic and reduces the temperature of the flames by absorption of heat in the surroundings.

In an undesirable scenario, for instance saponification damages oil paintings. In oil paintings, the heavy metals used in pigments react with the oil containing free fatty acids and form soaps. Therefore , the paintings undergoes damage gradually.

Therefore the soaps formed are useful in everyday life for instance, sodium soaps are used for laundry, potassium soaps are used for cleaning and lithium soaps are used as lubricating greases.

In conclusion, there are various other soaps which are present for different purposes.

Interested in learning about similar topics? Here are a few hand-picked blogs for you!

  1. What is Pyrolysis?
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  4. What is Enthalpy?

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