Test for Carboxyl Group

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Aim Theory Apparatus Procedure Observations Results Viva-Voce

Carboxylic acids are versatile organic compounds. It has excellent physical and chemical properties. The chemical structure of carboxylic acid contains a carbonyl functional group and hydroxyl group. It interact easily with polar compounds and contributes to many important chemical reactions. The carboxylic acids are the most important functional group that contains C=O.


To identify the presence of carboxylic functional group in a given organic compound.


Carboxylic acids have a tendency to donate protons and act as acids. It is this property which is helpful in the identification of a -COOH group.

Also Read: Test for Carboxyl Group Viva Questions

Any of the following tests can be carried out to detect the carboxylic functional group.

  1. Litmus test
  2. Sodium bicarbonate test (or) Sodium hydrogen carbonate test
  3. Ester test
  4. Fluorescein test

(a) Litmus Test:

The carboxylic acid turns blue litmus red. Because the hydroxyl group present in -COOH is far more acidic than in alcohol.

The chemical reaction is given below.

R-COOH + H2O → R-COO + H3O+

Note: If the colour of the blue litmus paper changes to red, then a carboxylic group is present. Phenol also gives this test.

(b) Sodium Bicarbonate Test:

When carboxylic acid reacts with sodium bicarbonate solution carbon dioxide is evolved with a brisk effervescence along with sodium acetate is formed.

The chemical reaction is given below.

RCOOH + NaHCO3 → RCOONa + H2O + CO2↑ (brisk effervescence)

Note: This test is used to distinguish between carboxylic acid from phenol. Phenol does not give this test.

(c) Ester Test:

Carboxylic acid reacts with alcohol in the presence of concentrated sulphuric acid and forms a pleasant smelling ester. This reaction is known as esterification.

The chemical reaction is given below.

RCOOH + R-OH + H2SO4 → RCOO-R (Ester) + H2O

Note: Formation of a sweet smelling compound indicates the presence of carboxylic group in the given organic compound.

(d) Fluorescein Test:

This test is given by dicarboxylic acid. Dicarboxylic acid on heating gives acid anhydride. When this anhydride is treated with resorcinol in the presence of concentrated sulphuric acid a fluorescent
dye is formed and so this reaction is called fluorescein test.

The chemical reaction is given below.

Fluorescein Test

Note: This test should be performed only if the compound gives positive results in litmus test and sodium bicarbonate test.

Materials Required:

  1. Blue litmus paper
  2. Sodium bicarbonate (or) sodium hydrogen carbonate
  3. Ethyl alcohol
  4. Concentrated sulphuric acid
  5. Resorcinol
  6. Acid anhydride
  7. Given organic compound
  8. Test tubes
  9. Test tube holders
  10. Beaker
  11. Glass rod
  12. Stirrer


(a) Litmus Test:

  1. Add a drop of given organic compound on blue litmus paper.
  2. Observe the colour change in blue litmus paper.
  3. If the colour of blue litmus changes to red the presence of carboxylic acid.

Note: Blue litmus solution is also used in the place of blue litmus paper.

(b) Sodium Bicarbonate Test:

  1. Prepare a saturated solution of sodium bicarbonate by dissolving sodium bicarbonate in 1ml of water.
  2. Add the given organic compound to the saturated solution of sodium bicarbonate solution.
  3. Shake the solution well.
  4. If there is an evolution of brisk effervescence then it indicates the presence of carboxylic acid.

Note: Use acid free alcohol for the test.

(c) Ester Test:

  1. Mix the given compound with ethyl alcohol and concentrated sulphuric acid.
  2. Heat the mixture in a dry test tube in a water bath.
  3. Pour the reaction mixture into a beaker carefully containing water.
  4. Neutralise the excess sulphuric acid.
  5. If a sweet smelling substance is sensed then it indicates the presence of acid.

(d) Fluorescein Test:

  1. Take the given organic compound to be tested in a test tube.
  2. Mix with 100mg of resorcinol and 0.5ml of concentrated sulphhuric acid.
  3. Heat the test tube gently on a bunsen burner.
  4. Pour the mixture into a beaker containing dilute sodium hydroxide solution.
  5. Appearance of green colour fluorescent solution indicates the presence of carboxylic acid group.

Note: The resultant solution should be alkaline


Litmus test Carboxylic group turns blue litmus red.
Sodium bicarbonate test Brisk effervescence indicates the presence of a carboxylic acid
Ester test Formation of a sweet smelling compound indicates the presence of carboxylic group.
Fluorescein test Appearance of green colour fluorescent solution indicates the presence of acid group.

Results and Discussion:

The given organic compound is ___________ .


  1. In sodium bicarbonate test use acid free alcohol so that it should not interfere with the functional group of the given organic compound.
  2. The addition of sodium bicarbonate should be carried out slowly so that the effervescence is visible clearly.
  3. Dicarboxylic acids like oxalic acid, terephthalic acid and isophthalic acid do not give fluorescein test.

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Frequently Asked Questions on Test for Carboxyl Group


How to distinguish phenol from aniline?

Phenol is soluble in aqueous sodium hydroxide solution whereas aniline is not soluble. In other way aniline is soluble in dilute hydrochloric solution but phenol is not soluble.


How will you distinguish between phenol and carboxylic acid?

Carboxylic acid reacts with aqueous sodium bicarbonate, carboxylate salt, and carbon dioxide. This test is not given by phenol.


What causes brisk effervescence in the sodium bicarbonate test?

The evolution of carbon dioxide during the reaction causes brisk effervescence in sodium bicarbonate test.


What is carboxylic acid?

A carboxylic acid is an organic acid that contains a carboxyl group (C(=O)OH) attached to an R-group. The general formula of a carboxylic acid is R−COOH, with R referring to the alkyl, alkenyl, aryl, or other groups.


Why is the name carboxyl addressed to carboxylic acid?

Due to the presence of carbonyl group (C = O) and hydroxyl group, the name carboxyl is addressed to carboxylic acid.


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  1. How carboxylic acid gives the positive unsaturation test