Palmitic acid, or hexadecanoic acid in IUPAC nomenclature, is the most common fatty acid (saturated) found in animals, plants and microorganisms. Its chemical formula is CH3(CH2)14COOH. As its name indicates, it is a major component of the oil from palm trees (palm oil), but can also be found in meats, cheeses, butter, and dairy products. Palmitate is a term for the salts and esters of palmitic acid. The palmitate anion is the observed form of palmitic acid at physiologic pH (7.4). Aluminium salts of palmitic acid and naphthenic acid were combined during World War II to produce napalm. The word "napalm" is derived from the words naphthenic acid and palmitic acid.MORE INFORMATION
Palmitic acid was discovered by Edmond Frémy in 1840, in saponified palm oil. This remains the primary industrial route for its production, with the triglycerides (fats) in palm oil being hydrolysed by high temperature water (above 200 °C or 390 °F) and the resulting mixture fractionally distilled to give the pure product.
Palmitic acid is naturally produced by a wide range of other plants and organisms, typically at low levels. It is naturally present in butter, cheese, milk and meat also as well as cocoa butter, soybean oil and sunflower oil. The cetyl ester of palmitic acid (cetyl palmitate) occurs in spermaceti.
Palmitic acid is used to produce soaps, cosmetics, and release agents. These applications utilize sodium palmitate, which is commonly obtained by saponification of palm oil. To this end, palm oil, rendered from palm tree (species Elaeis Guineensis), is treated with sodium hydroxide (in the form of caustic soda or lye), which causes hydrolysis of the ester groups. This procedure affords glycerol and sodium palmitate.