Levulinic acid (LA) [123-76-2] – general description and application

General description:

Levulinic acid [123-76-2], or 4-oxo-pentanoic acid, or β-acetylpropionic acid, or γ-ketovaleric acid is an organic acid belonging to keto acids group. In its pure form, it is a white crystalline solid with melting point of 33-35°C.[1] It is soluble in water and polar organic solvents. Despite its low toxicity (LD50 1850 mg/Kg, oral, rat), as other acids, it can cause the acid burns and high concentrated solutions are irritating to the skin and mucous membranes.[2]

The name, levulinic acid (originally levulinsäure, in german) was suggested by A. v. Grote and B. Tollens in 1874 as it was prepared from L-sugar (L-fructose) known as levulose.[3]


Levulinic acid can be produced by acid hydrolysis of 5-hydroxymethylfufural (5-HMF), or by transformation of biomass/cellulose via formation of monomeric sugar derivatives.[4] It can be used as a raw material in organic synthesis, especially in the production process of some pharmaceuticals, in the preparation of 5-methyl-2-pyrrolidone, γ-valerolactone and angelica lactone.[5] It has been recently found to be useful in the production of plasticizers and its esters as fragrance ingredients (fraistone) are used in the cosmetics production. Most recently, it has been shown that LA can used in the production of methyltetrahydrofuran, a valuable solvent or a gasoline blending component.[4]

Product categorization (Chemical groups):

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[1] Franz Dietrich Klingler, Wolfgang Ebertz, Ullmann’s Encyclopedia of Industrial Chemistry, 2005, Wiley-VCH, Weinheim. doi:10.1002/14356007.a18_313
[2] V. Sunjic, J. Horvat, B. Klaic, S. Horvat, Kem. Ind. 1984, 33, 593.
[3] A. v. Grote, B. Tollens, Justus Liebigs Ann. Chem. 1875, 175, 181.
[4](a), (b) B. F. McKenzie, Org. Synth. 19299, 50.
[5] (a) Quaker Oats, US 2 786 852, 1957 (A. P. Dunlop, J. W. Maden). (b) J. Thiele, R. Tischbein, E. Lossow, Justus Liebigs Ann. Chem. 1901, 319, 180. (c) Newport Ind., US 2 761 869, 1956; US 2 809 203, 1959.