any of a class of organic acids containing sulfur and having the general formula RSO3H, in which R is an organic combining group. The sulfonic acids are among the most important of the organosulfur compounds; the free acids are widely used as catalysts in organic syntheses, while the salts and other derivatives form the basis of the manufacture of detergents, water-soluble dyes and catalysts, sulfonamide pharmaceuticals, and ion-exchange resins. Aromatic sulfonic acids are particularly useful as intermediates or starting materials in synthesis-for example, in the preparation of phenols. Sulfonic acid groups can greatly enhance the water solubility of compounds, as seen with the sulfonic acid derivative of triphenyl phosphine (TPPTS), P(C6H4-m-SO3Na)3. Metal complexes of this compound are used as homogeneous catalysts for the syntheses of organic compounds in two-phase systems (e.g., in a mixture of water and an organic solvent) in industry and in the laboratory.
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