Maleic anhydride

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Maleic anhydride[1]
Maleic anhydride
Maleic anhydride-3d.png
Sample of Maleic anhydride.jpg
Preferred IUPAC name
Other names
Maleic anhydride[2]
cis-Butenedioic anhydride
Maleic acid anhydride
Toxilic anhydride
3D model (JSmol)
ECHA InfoCard 100.003.247
EC Number 203-571-6
RTECS number UE5950000
Molar mass 98.06 g·mol−1
Appearance White crystals or needles[3]
Odor irritating, choking[3]
Density 1.48 g/cm3
Melting point 52.8 °C (127.0 °F; 325.9 K)
Boiling point 202 °C (396 °F; 475 K)
Vapor pressure 0.2 mmHg (20°C)[3]
-35.8·10−6 cm3/mol
Safety data sheet MSDS at J. T. Baker
Corrosive (C)
R-phrases (outdated) R22, R34, R42/43
S-phrases (outdated) (S2), S22, S26,
S36/37/39, S45
NFPA 704
Flammability code 1: Must be pre-heated before ignition can occur. Flash point over 93 °C (200 °F). E.g., canola oil Health code 3: Short exposure could cause serious temporary or residual injury. E.g., chlorine gas Reactivity code 1: Normally stable, but can become unstable at elevated temperatures and pressures. E.g., calcium Special hazards (white): no codeNFPA 704 four-colored diamond
Flash point 102 °C (216 °F; 375 K)
Explosive limits 1.4%-7.1%[3]
Lethal dose or concentration (LD, LC):
465 mg/kg (oral, mouse)
850 mg/kg (oral, rat)
875 mg/kg (oral, rabbit)
390 mg/kg (oral, guinea pig)
400 mg/kg (oral, rat)[4]
US health exposure limits (NIOSH):
PEL (Permissible)
TWA 1 mg/m3 (0.25 ppm)[3]
REL (Recommended)
TWA 1 mg/m3 (0.25 ppm)[3]
IDLH (Immediate danger)
10 mg/m3[3]
Related compounds
Succinic anhydride
Related compounds
Maleic acid
Except where otherwise noted, data are given for materials in their standard state (at 25 °C [77 °F], 100 kPa).
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Infobox references

Maleic anhydride is an organic compound with the formula C2H2(CO)2O. It is the acid anhydride of maleic acid. It is a colorless or white solid with an acrid odor. It is produced industrially on a large scale for applications in coatings and polymers.[5]


Maleic anhydride is produced by vapor-phase oxidation of n-butane. The overall process converts the methyl groups to carboxylate and dehydrogenates the backbone. The selectivity of the process reflects the robustness of maleic anhydride, with its conjugated double-bond system. Traditionally maleic anhydride was produced by the oxidation of benzene or other aromatic compounds. As of 2006, only a few smaller plants continue to use benzene.

In both cases, benzene and butane are fed into a stream of hot air, and the mixture is passed through a catalyst bed at high temperature. The ratio of air to hydrocarbon is controlled to prevent the mixture from igniting. Vanadium pentoxide and molybdenum trioxide are the catalysts used for the benzene route, whereas vanadium phosphate is used for the butane route:[5]

C4H10 + 3.5 O2 → C2H2C2O3 + 4 H2O ∆H = -1236 kJ/mol

The main competing process entails full combustion of the butane, a conversion that is twice as exothermic as the partial oxidation.

The traditional method using benzene became uneconomical due to the high and still rising benzene prices and by complying the regulations of benzene emissions. In addition, in the production of maleic anhydride (4 C-atoms) a third of the original carbon atoms is lost as carbon dioxide when using benzene (6 carbon atoms). The modern catalytic processes start from a 4-carbon molecule and only attaches oxygen and removes water; the 4-C-base body of the molecule remains intact. Overall, the newer method is therefore more material efficient.[6]

Parallels exist with the production of phthalic anhydride: While older methods use naphthalene, modern methods use o-xylene as feedstock.


The chemistry of maleic anhydride is very rich, reflecting its ready availability and bifunctional reactivity. It hydrolyzes, producing maleic acid, cis-HOOC–CH=CH–COOH. With alcohols, the half-ester is generated, e.g., cis-HOOC–CH=CH–COOCH3.

Maleic anhydride is a classic substrate for Diels-Alder reactions.[7] It was used for work in 1928, on the reaction between maleic anhydride and 1,3-butadiene, for which Otto Paul Hermann Diels and Kurt Alder were awarded the Nobel Prize in 1950. It is through this reaction that maleic anhydride converted to many pesticides and pharmaceuticals.

Michael reaction of maleic anhydride with active methylene or methine compounds such as malonate or acetoacetate esters in the presence of sodium acetate catalyst. These intermediates were subsequently used for the generation of the Krebs cycle intermediates aconitic and isocitric acids.[8]

Maleic anhydride dimerizes in a photochemical reaction to form cyclobutane tetracarboxylic dianhydride (CBTA). This compound is used in the production of polyimides and as an alignment film for liquid crystal displays.[9]

Maleic anhydride dimerization

It is also a ligand for low-valent metal complexes, examples being Pt(PPh3)2(MA) and Fe(CO)4(MA).


Maleic anhydride is used in many applications.[5]

Around 50% of world maleic anhydride output is used in the manufacture of unsaturated polyester resins (UPR). Chopped glass fibers are added to UPR to produce fibreglass reinforced plastics that are used in a wide range of applications such as pleasure boats, bathroom fixtures, automobiles, tanks and pipes.

Maleic anhydride is hydrogenated to 1,4-butanediol (BDO), used in the production of thermoplastic polyurethanes, elastane/Spandex fibers, polybutylene terephthalate (PBT) resins and many other products.

Malathion is a popular herbicide that is derived from maleic anhydride.

Diels-Alder reaction of maleic anhydride and butadiene and isoprene gives the respective tetrahydrophthalic anhydrides which can be hydrogenated to the corresponding hexahydrophthalic anhydrides. These species are used a curing agents in epoxy resins. Another market for maleic anhydride is lubricating oil additives, which are used in gasoline and diesel engine crankcase oils as dispersants and corrosion inhibitors. Changes in lubricant specifications and more efficient engines have had a negative effect on the demand for lubricating oil additives, giving flat growth prospects for maleic anhydride in this application.

A number of smaller applications for maleic anhydride. The food industry uses maleic anhydride in artificial sweeteners and flavour enhancements. Personal care products consuming maleic anhydride include hair sprays, adhesives and floor polishes. Maleic anhydride is also a precursor to compounds used for water treatment detergents, insecticides and fungicides, pharmaceuticals, and other copolymers.

Major producers[edit]

Company Location Capacity (KMT/Year)
Bartek Ingredients Inc. Canada 28
Sasol-Huntsman Germany 105
DSM NV The Netherlands 00
Flint Hills Resources LP USA 50
Huntsman Corporation USA 155
Huntsman Performance Products USA 00
Lanxess Corporation USA 75
Lonza Group AG Switzerland 00
Marathon Petroleum Company LLC USA 55
Mitsubishi Chemical Corporation Japan 32
Mitsui Chemicals, Inc Japan 33
Mitsui Chemicals Polyurethanes, Inc. Japan 00
Nippon Shokubai Co., Ltd Japan 35
NOF Corporation Japan 12
Polynt SpA Italy 96
Suzhou Synthetic Chemical Co, Ltd. China 15

Source: Kirk & Othmer

Solid State Chemicals, Ltd. started production of solid maleic anhydride pastilles in the USA in 2014.

World Maleic Anhydride Capacity By Region
Data in: kilotonnes per annum

Region 2002 2012 2015 (KMT/Year)
North America 235 311 370
South & Central America 44 41 46
Western Europe 168 456 307
Central & Eastern Europe 64 58 60
Asia 315 483 1864
Africa 10 10 14
Total 836 1359 2771

Source: Kirk & Othmer [full citation needed]

Packing and transport[edit]

Liquid maleic anhydride is available in road tankers and/or tank-containers which are made of stainless steel, which are insulated and provided with heating systems to maintain the temperature of 65-75 °C. Tank cars must be approved for the transport of molten maleic anhydride.

Liquid/molten maleic anhydride is a dangerous material in accordance with RID/ADR.

Solid maleic anhydride pastilles are transported by transport trucks. Packaging is generally in 25 kg polyethylene bags.


  • Requirements for storage buildings
    • Local exhaust systems to take vapours away from the places of emission, and general ventilation in rooms.
    • Protection against static charges.
    • Impervious floor which makes it possible to collect the spilled material and which prevents its entry to the sewage system.
    • Storage rooms should be cool and dry.
  • Storage conditions
    • Keep ignition sources away - do not smoke. Product dust may form explosive air-dust mixtures.
    • Keep humidity away from storage rooms.
    • Keep containers tightly closed. Store them in cool, dry and well ventilated places.
    • Tanks / containers must be properly marked.
    • Hand-operated / portable fire-fighting equipment should be available in storage rooms.
    • Neutral gas blanketing is required inside storage tanks.

Effects on human health and the environment[edit]

This compound poses relatively low-risk environmental hazards, an important feature for some applications. In humans, exposure to maleic anhydride may cause irritation to the respiratory tract, eyes, exposed mucosa, and skin. Maleic anhydride is also a skin and respiratory sensitizer.[10]

Maleic anhydride is a low hazard profile chemical. Maleic anhydride rapidly hydrolyzes to form maleic acid in the presence of water and hence environmental exposures to maleic anhydride itself are unlikely. Maleic acid is biodegradable under aerobic conditions in sewage sludge as well as in soil and water.

Food starch for use in night markets sold from a supplier in Tainan city, Taiwan, were found to contain maleic anhydride in December 2013. The supplier was investigated regarding the 300 tons of tainted starch; an earlier inspection in November had found 32 tons.[11]


  1. ^ Merck Index, 11th Edition, 5586.
  2. ^ a b Nomenclature of Organic Chemistry : IUPAC Recommendations and Preferred Names 2013 (Blue Book). Cambridge: The Royal Society of Chemistry. 2014. p. 835. ISBN 978-0-85404-182-4. doi:10.1039/9781849733069-FP001. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g "NIOSH Pocket Guide to Chemical Hazards #0376". National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). 
  4. ^ "Maleic anhydride". Immediately Dangerous to Life and Health. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). 
  5. ^ a b c Kurt Lohbeck; Herbert Haferkorn; Werner Fuhrmann; Norbert Fedtke (2005), "Maleic and Fumaric Acids", Ullmann's Encyclopedia of Industrial Chemistry, Weinheim: Wiley-VCH, doi:10.1002/14356007.a16_053 
  6. ^ Bertram Philipp, Peter Stevens: Grundzüge der Industriellen Chemie, VCH Verlagsgesellschaft mbH, 1987, S. 179, ISBN 3-527-25991-0.
  7. ^ Samuel Danishefsky; Takeshi Kitahara & Paul F. Schuda (1983). "Preparation and Diels-Alder Reaction of a Highly Nucleophilic Diene: trans-1-Methoxyl-3-Trimethylsiloxy-1,3-Butadiene and 5β-Methoxycyclohexan-1-one-3β,4β-Dicarboxylic acid Andhydride". Org. Synth. 61: 147. 
  8. ^ US 4146543 E.Gutierrez
  9. ^ Horie, T.; Sumino, M.; Tanaka, T.; Matsushita, Y.; Ichimura, T.; Yoshida, J. I. (2010). "Photodimerization of Maleic Anhydride in a Microreactor Without Clogging". Organic Process Research & Development. 14 (2): 100128104701019. doi:10.1021/op900306z. 
  10. ^ "Substance Evaluation Report: Maleic anhydride" (PDF). Environment Agency Austria. 
  11. ^ "Tainted starch found in Tainan yet again". Want China Times. 2013-12-19. 

External links[edit]