Benzoic Acid vs. Ethyl Benzoate

What's the Difference?

Benzoic acid and ethyl benzoate are both organic compounds that contain a benzene ring attached to a carboxylic acid group. However, they differ in their chemical structures and properties. Benzoic acid is a white crystalline solid with a strong odor, while ethyl benzoate is a colorless liquid with a pleasant fruity smell. Benzoic acid is highly soluble in water, whereas ethyl benzoate is only slightly soluble. In terms of usage, benzoic acid is commonly used as a food preservative and in the production of various chemicals, while ethyl benzoate is primarily used as a flavoring agent in food and beverages.


AttributeBenzoic AcidEthyl Benzoate
Chemical FormulaC7H6O2C9H10O2
Molecular Weight122.12 g/mol150.17 g/mol
StructureBenzoic Acid StructureEthyl Benzoate Structure
Physical StateSolidLiquid
OdorStrong, pungentFruity, sweet
SolubilitySoluble in waterInsoluble in water
Boiling Point249.2 °C213 °C
UsesPreservative, flavoring agentFlavoring agent, fragrance

Further Detail


Benzoic acid and ethyl benzoate are two organic compounds that share a common benzene ring structure but differ in their functional groups and properties. In this article, we will explore and compare the attributes of these two compounds, including their chemical structures, physical properties, uses, and potential health effects.

Chemical Structures

Benzoic acid, also known as carboxybenzene, has the chemical formula C6H5COOH. It consists of a benzene ring with a carboxylic acid functional group (-COOH) attached to it. On the other hand, ethyl benzoate has the chemical formula C9H10O2. It contains a benzene ring with an ester functional group (-COO-) and an ethyl group (-C2H5) attached to it.

Physical Properties

Benzoic acid is a white crystalline solid with a strong, somewhat pleasant odor. It has a melting point of 122-123°C and a boiling point of 249-251°C. It is sparingly soluble in water but dissolves well in organic solvents such as ethanol and ether. In contrast, ethyl benzoate is a colorless liquid with a sweet, fruity odor. It has a lower melting point of -34°C and a higher boiling point of 211°C. Ethyl benzoate is also soluble in organic solvents but has limited solubility in water.


Benzoic acid is widely used in various industries. It is commonly employed as a food preservative due to its antimicrobial properties, preventing the growth of bacteria, yeasts, and molds. It is also utilized in the production of dyes, perfumes, and pharmaceuticals. Benzoic acid can be found in many consumer products, including cosmetics, toothpaste, and cough syrups. On the other hand, ethyl benzoate is primarily used as a flavoring agent in the food and beverage industry. It imparts a fruity aroma and taste to products such as candies, baked goods, and soft drinks.

Reactivity and Stability

Benzoic acid is a relatively stable compound under normal conditions. It can undergo reactions typical of carboxylic acids, such as esterification, where it reacts with alcohols to form esters. Ethyl benzoate, being an ester itself, is less reactive than benzoic acid. However, it can still undergo hydrolysis in the presence of water or strong acids, breaking down into benzoic acid and ethanol. Both compounds are susceptible to oxidation under certain conditions.

Health Effects

Benzoic acid is generally recognized as safe for consumption in small amounts. However, some individuals may be sensitive to it and experience allergic reactions or skin irritation. In high concentrations, it can be toxic and may cause respiratory, gastrointestinal, or central nervous system effects. Ethyl benzoate is also considered safe for consumption but may cause allergic reactions in sensitive individuals. It is important to note that the safety of these compounds depends on the specific application and concentration used.


In conclusion, while benzoic acid and ethyl benzoate share a common benzene ring structure, they differ in their functional groups, physical properties, uses, and potential health effects. Benzoic acid is a solid with a carboxylic acid group, widely used as a preservative and in various industries. Ethyl benzoate, a liquid with an ester group, is primarily used as a flavoring agent. Both compounds have their own reactivity and stability characteristics, as well as potential health considerations. Understanding these attributes is crucial for their appropriate and safe use in various applications.

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