Acetonitrile

What Is Acetonitrile?

It is a chemical compound with the formula C2H3N or CH3CN and it is a volatile organic compound. Acetonitrile is also called Cyanomethane or Methane Carbonitrile. It’s IUPAC name is Acetonitrile. It is a nitrile which is a hydrogen cyanide where the hydrogen (H) is replaced by a methyl group (-CH3). Acetonitrile is a limpid liquid, which is totally colourless. It has an aromatic odor. Compared with water it is less dense than water. When compared with air, it’s vapours are denser. Acetonitrile is easily soluble in water and it has a sweetish taste. It is used as a medium-polarity solvent in the laboratory. Acetonitrile was first prepared by Jean Baptiste Dumas in the year of 1847. It is mainly produced as a byproduct of acrylonitrile manufacture.  In the European Economic Area since March 2000,  acetonitrile has been banned in cosmetic products. It is often preferred as safe for domestic use.

Properties 0f Acetonitrile - C2H3N or CH3CN

  1. Molecular weight: 41.05 g/mol

  2. Density: 786 kg/m3

  3. Melting point: -46oC to -44oC

  4. Boiling point: 81.3oC to 82.1oC

  5. IUPAC ID: Acetonitrile

  6. Colour: Colorless

  7. Odor: Aromatic odor

  8. Taste: Sweetish taste

  9. Solubility: Soluble in water

  10. Chemical names: Methyl cyanide, Cyanomethane, Ethanenitrile

Structure Of Acetonitrile - C2H3N or  CH3CN

Acetonitrile is classified as a nitrile in terms of its functional group. As per organic chemistry, a nitrile is defined as a carbon atom that contains a triple bond to a nitrogen atom. Acetonitrile is the simplest organic nitrile which contains a carbon nitrogen triple bond. 

Preparation Of Acetonitrile - C2H3N or  CH3CN

By manufacturing acrylonitrile, it is obtained as a byproduct. It can also be synthesized by hydrogenation of mixtures of carbon monoxide or dehydration of acetamide and ammonia. A method was disclosed with the invention for preparing high purity Acetonitrile from acetic acid and ammonia by two steps which consist of the following two steps, 1. neutralizing acetic acid and ammonia to generate ammonium acetate, 2. Mixing aqueous solution of ammonium acetate and gaseous ammonia, preheating and making the mixture enter a fixed bed reactor which is filled with a catalyst aluminium oxide for reaction to generate acetonitrile which containing mixed gas, after continuously refining the gas we got pure Acetonitrile. 

Uses Of Acetonitrile (C2H3N)

  1. In the extraction process of hydrocarbons, acetonitrile is used as a solvent.

  2. For the chemical reactions and in chromatography chemists use it as a solvent.

  3. To separate fatty acid from vegetable oil we use acetonitrile.

  4. Acetonitrile is used in making perfumes.

  5. In the production of synthetic pharmaceuticals, acetonitrile is widely used.

  6. Acetonitrile is used in the manufacturing of rubber.

  7. It is used in extraction of copper as well as refining.

  8. In electrochemical cells, it is used as a solvent.

  9. Because of its relatively high dielectric constant and ability to dissolve electrolytes, it is widely used in battery application.

  10.  Acetonitrile is being used in high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC).

  11.  Acetonitrile has been used in formulations for nail polish remover

  12. In the manufacturing of DNA oligonucleotides, in a pharmaceutical field and in photographic film, acetonitrile is used as a solvent.

Fun Facts

1. Acetonitrile is a liquid that is colorless.

2. In the group nitrile acetonitrile is the simplest molecule.

3. Acetonitrile is quite cheap because it is made when plastic is being made.

4. Acetonitrile must be handled with caution because it is an extremely dangerous product, it can cause severe health effects or death.  Since acetonitrile is flammable, it can hurt our eyes.

5. Symptoms of acetonitrile exposure look like cyanide exposure and it can include pink colouring of the skin, dilated pupils, headache, nausea, and vomiting, dizziness, weakness, stiffness of the lower jaw, anxiety, pain and tightness in the chest, rapid breathing and pulse, irregular heartbeat, shortness of breath, etc.

6. Despite its toxicity, it has been used in formulations for nail polish remover. By acetonitrile-based nail polish remover, at least two cases have been reported of accidental poisoning of young children, one of which was fatal.

7. In the European Economic Area since March 2000,  acetonitrile has been banned in cosmetic products. It is often preferred as safe for domestic use.

FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

1. How can exposure to acetonitrile affect our health?

Acetonitrile must be handled with caution because it is an extremely dangerous product, it can cause severe health effects or death.  Since acetonitrile is flammable, it can hurt our eyes. Symptoms of acetonitrile exposure look like cyanide exposure and it can include pink colouring of the skin, dilated pupils, headache, nausea, and vomiting, dizziness, weakness, stiffness of the lower jaw, anxiety, pain and tightness in the chest, rapid breathing and pulse, irregular heartbeat, shortness of breath, etc. Due to acetonitrile, the thyroid gland can be enlarged and can last for months or years.

2. What should be done if exposure to acetonitrile occurs?

The exposures and the steps we have to choose is:

  1. If there is eye contact with acetonitrile, the eyes should be flushed with large amounts of water and continue this process for several minutes, occasionally lifting the upper and lower lids. Remove contact lenses if possible.

  2. If there will be any skin contact with Acetonitrile, the skin should be immediately washed with soap and a large amount of water, and rinse thoroughly. Remove the contaminated clothes if a contact has been made with clothing. If necessary, cut the clothing off, and do not pull it over the head. Until it can be decontaminated or disposed of properly, leave it in a double bag closed container.

  3. To avoid breathing problems, leave the area of exposure immediately and move to an area of fresh air.