fatty acid

fatty acid, any of the organic carboxylic acids present in fats and oils as esters of glycerol . Molecular weights of fatty acids vary over a wide range. The carbon skeleton of any fatty acid is unbranched. Some fatty acids are saturated, i.e., each carbon atom is connected to its carbon atom neighbors by single bonds and some fatty acids are unsaturated, i.e., contain at least one carbon-carbon double bond (see chemical bond ). When fats and oils are hydrolyzed with an alkali, the fatty acids are liberated as their metal salts these salts are soaps. Butyric acid is a fatty acid found in butter.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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