These esters are readily hydrolysed and yield the monoand di-alkylimalonic acids which, on heating, are readily decomposed, with evolution of carbon dioxide and the formation of monoand di-alkyl acetic acids.
In a scientific definition the compounds of fatty acids with basic metallic oxides, lime, magnesia, lead oxide, &c., should also be included under soap; but, as these compounds are insoluble in water, while the very essence of a soap in its industrial relations is solubility, it is better to speak of the insoluble compounds as " plasters, " limiting the name " soap " as the compounds of fatty acids with soda and potash.
The rationale of this treatment is not fully understood, but the action appears to consist in the separation or decomposition of the aromatic hydrocarbons, fatty and other acids, phenols, tarry bodies, &c., which lower the quality of the oil, the sulphuric acid removing some, while the caustic soda takes out the remainder, and neutralizes the acid which has been left in the oil.
Another mode of separating the two acids is to convert them into calcium salts, which are then treated with a perfectly neutral solution of cupric chloride, soluble cupric citrate and calcium chloride being formed, while cupric tartrate remains undissolved.
The different behaviour of these two acids to a ray of polarized light was subsequently observed by J.