Propanoic Acid: Structure, Formula & Uses

Instructor: Artem Cheprasov

Artem has a doctor of veterinary medicine degree.

This lesson gives you the alternative name for propanoic acid, its structures, formulas as well as many of its interesting uses throughout a number of industries.

What Is Propanoic Acid?

What's found in your gastrointestinal tract and dairy products and is used as antifungal agent? It's propanoic acid, also called propionic acid. If you were to see and smell the isolated version of this chemical compound, you wouldn't like it. It's a clear, colorless and oily liquid. It also has a sharp rancid odor to it and it produces irritating vapors as well. If you were to taste it, you'd describe it as sour and a bit cheese-like in nature. Of course, that isn't recommended. Just stick to the Gouda instead.

What's recommended is that you continue reading this lesson to find out this compound's structure, formula and uses.

Structure & Formula

The chemical formula for propanoic acid can be either of the following although the first is more commonly used:


The C stands for carbon. The H refers to hydrogen. The O is for oxygen.

Just like propanoic acid has two different formulas, its structure can be ultimately demonstrated in multiple ways, either two dimensionally or three dimensionally as shown in the images herein.

2D Structure

3D structure


More than the number of formulas and ways by which its structure can be represented, are the number of things for which propanoic acid can be used. This includes the chemical variations of propanoic acid called propionates.

There is actually more than one way by which propanoic acid can be manufactured for all of its uses. Perhaps the most interesting way is by fermenting wood pulp waste using bacteria of the aptly named genus Propionibacterium.

Regardless of how they're made, both propanoic acid and propionates have been used for many things:

To unlock this lesson you must be a Member.
Create your account

Register to view this lesson

Are you a student or a teacher?

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use

Become a member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back
What teachers are saying about
Try it risk-free for 30 days

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 200 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 1,500 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Create an account to start this course today
Try it risk-free for 30 days!
Create an account