Acesulfame potassium (ace-SUHL-faym) is a calorie-free Sugar
substitute (artificial sweetener), also known as Acesulfame K or Ace K (K being the symbol for potassium), and marketed under the trade names Sunett and Sweet One. In the European Union, it is known under the E number (additive code) E950. It was discovered accidentally in 1967 by German chemist Karl Clauss at Hoechst AG (now Nutrinova). In chemical structure, acesulfame potassium is the potassium salt of 6-methyl-1,2,3-oxathiazine-4(3H)-one 2,2-dioxide. It is a white crystalline powder with molecular formula C4H4KNO4S and a molecular weight of 201.24 g/mol.
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Acesulfame K is 200 times sweeter than sucrose (table sugar), as sweet as aspartame, about 2/3 as sweet as saccharin, and 1/3 as sweet as sucralose. Like saccharin, it has a slightly bitter aftertaste, especially at high concentrations. Kraft Foods has patented the use of sodium ferulate to mask acesulfame's aftertaste. Acesulfame K is often blended with other sweeteners (usually sucralose or aspartame). These blends are reputed to give a more sugar-like taste whereby each sweetener masks the other's aftertaste, and/or exhibits a synergistic effect by which the blend is sweeter than its components.
Unlike aspartame, acesulfame K is stable under heat, even under moderately acidic or basic conditions, allowing it to be used as a food additive in baking, or in products that require a long shelf life. In carbonated drinks, it is almost always used in conjunction with another sweetener, such as Aspartame
or sucralose. It is also used as a sweetener in protein shakes and pharmaceutical products, especially chewable and liquid medications, where it can make the active ingredients more palatable.
Acesulfame potassium was developed after the accidental discovery of a similar compound (5,6-dimethyl-1,2,3-oxathiazin-4(3H)-one 2,2-dioxide) in 1967 by Karl Clauss and Harald Jensen at Hoechst AG. After accidentally dipping his fingers into the chemicals with which he was working, Clauss licked them to pick up a piece of paper. Subsequent research showed a number of compounds with the same basic ring structure had varying levels of sweetness. 6-Methyl-1,2,3-oxathiazine-4(3H)-one 2,2-dioxide had particularly favourable taste characteristics and was relatively easy to synthesize, so it was singled out for further research, and received its generic name (acesulfame-K) from the World Health Organization in 1978.