|a yellow to yellow-brown humic substance that is soluble in water under all pH conditions; "they measured the fluvial fulvic acid"|
one of two classes of natural acidic organic polymer that can be extracted from humus found in soil, sediment, or aquatic environments. Its name derives from Latin fulvus, indicating its yellow colour. This organic matter is soluble in strong acid (pH = 1) and has the average chemical formula C135H182O95N5S2. A hydrogen-to-carbon ratio greater than 1:1 indicates less aromatic character (i.e., fewer benzene rings in the structure), while an oxygen-to-carbon ratio greater than 0.5:1 indicates more acidic character than in other organic fractions of humus (for example, humic acid, the other natural acidic organic polymer that can be extracted from humus). Its structure is best characterized as a loose assembly of aromatic organic polymers with many carboxyl groups (COOH) that release hydrogen ions, resulting in species that have electric charges at various sites on the ion. It is especially reactive with metals, forming strong complexes with Fe3+, Al3+, and Cu2+ in particular and leading to their increased solubility in natural waters. Fulvic acid is believed to originate as a product of microbial metabolism, although it is not synthesized as a life-sustaining carbon or energy source.
Learn more about fulvic acid with a free trial on Britannica.com.