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Skeletal formula of propanenitrile Propionitrile skeletal.png
Skeletal formula of propanenitrile
Skeletal formula of propanenitrile with all explicit hydrogens added Propionitrile simple.png
Skeletal formula of propanenitrile with all explicit hydrogens added
Preferred IUPAC name
Propanenitrile [1]
Other names
3D model (JSmol)
ECHA InfoCard 100.003.151 OOjs UI icon edit-ltr-progressive.svg
EC Number
  • 203-464-4
MeSH propionitrile
PubChem CID
RTECS number
  • UF9625000
UN number 2404
  • InChI=1S/C3H5N/c1-2-3-4/h2H2,1H3 Yes check.svgY
  • CCC#N
Molar mass 55.080 g·mol−1
AppearanceColourless liquid
Odor Sweetish, pleasant, ethereal [6]
Density 772 mg mL−1
Melting point −100 to −86 °C; −148 to −123 °F; 173 to 187 K
Boiling point 96 to 98 °C; 205 to 208 °F; 369 to 371 K
11.9% (20 °C) [6]
log P 0.176
Vapor pressure 270 μmol Pa−1 kg−1
-38.5·10−6 cm3/mol
105.3 J K−1 mol−1
Std molar
189.33 J K−1 mol−1
15.5 kJ mol−1
−1.94884–−1.94776 MJ mol−1
GHS labelling:
GHS-pictogram-flamme.svg GHS-pictogram-skull.svg
H225, H300, H310, H319, H332
P210, P264, P280, P301+P310, P302+P350, P305+P351+P338
NFPA 704 (fire diamond)
Flash point 6 °C (43 °F; 279 K)
Explosive limits 3.1%-? [6]
Lethal dose or concentration (LD, LC):
39 mg kg−1(oral, rat)
NIOSH (US health exposure limits):
PEL (Permissible)
none [6]
REL (Recommended)
TWA 6 ppm (14 mg/m3) [6]
IDLH (Immediate danger)
N.D. [6]
Related compounds
Related alkanenitriles
Related compounds
Except where otherwise noted, data are given for materials in their standard state (at 25 °C [77 °F], 100 kPa).
X mark.svgN  verify  (what is  Yes check.svgYX mark.svgN ?)

Propionitrile, also known as ethyl cyanide and propanenitrile, is an organic compound with the formula CH3CH2CN. It is a simple aliphatic nitrile. The compound is a colourless, water-soluble liquid. It is used as a solvent and a precursor to other organic compounds. [7]



The main industrial route to this nitrile is the hydrogenation of acrylonitrile. It is also prepared by the ammoxidation of propanol (propionaldehyde can also be used instead): [7]

CH3CH2CH2OH + O2 + NH3 → CH3CH2CN + 3 H2O

Propionitrile is a byproduct of the electrodimerisation of acrylonitrile to adiponitrile.

In the laboratory propanenitrile can also be produced by the dehydration of propionamide, by catalytic reduction of acrylonitrile, or by distilling ethyl sulfate and potassium cyanide.


Propionitrile is a solvent similar to acetonitrile but with a slightly higher boiling point. It is a precursor to propylamines by hydrogenation. It is a C-3 building block in the preparation of the drug flopropione by the Houben-Hoesch reaction.

The nitrile aldol reaction with benzophenone, followed by reduction of the nitrile with lithium aluminium hydride gives 2-MDP. This agent possesses appetite suppressant and antidepressant properties.

Chemical structure of 2-MDP U-23,807A.svg
Chemical structure of 2-MDP


Propanenitrile is only weakly toxic with an LD50 of 230 mg/kg (rats, oral). [7] Propanenitrile has been determined to be teratogenic due to the metabolic release of cyanide. [8]

In 1979, the Kalama (Vega) plant in Beaufort, South Carolina experienced an explosion during the production of propionitrile by nickel-catalyzed reduction of acrylonitrile. [9] This site is now one of the two Superfund cleanup sites in South Carolina. [9]

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Sodium cyanide</span> Chemical compound

Sodium cyanide is a poisonous compound with the formula NaCN. It is a white, water-soluble solid. Cyanide has a high affinity for metals, which leads to the high toxicity of this salt. Its main application, in gold mining, also exploits its high reactivity toward metals. It is a moderately strong base.

Acetonitrile, often abbreviated MeCN, is the chemical compound with the formula CH3CN and structure H3C−C≡N. This colourless liquid is the simplest organic nitrile. It is produced mainly as a byproduct of acrylonitrile manufacture. It is used as a polar aprotic solvent in organic synthesis and in the purification of butadiene. The N≡C−C skeleton is linear with a short C≡N distance of 1.16 Å.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Tetrahydrofuran</span> Chemical compound

Tetrahydrofuran (THF), or oxolane, is an organic compound with the formula (CH2)4O. The compound is classified as heterocyclic compound, specifically a cyclic ether. It is a colorless, water-miscible organic liquid with low viscosity. It is mainly used as a precursor to polymers. Being polar and having a wide liquid range, THF is a versatile solvent.

Acrylonitrile is an organic compound with the formula CH2CHCN and the structure H2C=CH−C≡N. It is a colorless, volatile liquid although commercial samples can be yellow due to impurities. It has a pungent odor of garlic or onions. In terms of its molecular structure, it consists of a vinyl group linked to a nitrile. It is an important monomer for the manufacture of useful plastics such as polyacrylonitrile. It is reactive and toxic at low doses. Acrylonitrile was first synthesized by the French chemist Charles Moureu (1863–1929) in 1893.

In organic chemistry, a nitrile is any organic compound that has a −C≡N functional group. The prefix cyano- is used interchangeably with the term nitrile in industrial literature. Nitriles are found in many useful compounds, including methyl cyanoacrylate, used in super glue, and nitrile rubber, a nitrile-containing polymer used in latex-free laboratory and medical gloves. Nitrile rubber is also widely used as automotive and other seals since it is resistant to fuels and oils. Organic compounds containing multiple nitrile groups are known as cyanocarbons.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Decaborane</span> Chemical compound

Decaborane, also called decaborane(14), is the borane with the chemical formula B10H14. This white crystalline compound is one of the principal boron hydride clusters, both as a reference structure and as a precursor to other boron hydrides. It is toxic and volatile, with a foul odor.

Cyanogen chloride is a highly toxic chemical compound with the formula NCCl. This linear, triatomic pseudohalogen is an easily condensed colorless gas. More commonly encountered in the laboratory is the related compound cyanogen bromide, a room-temperature solid that is widely used in biochemical analysis and preparation.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Formamide</span> Chemical compound

Formamide is an amide derived from formic acid. It is a colorless liquid which is miscible with water and has an ammonia-like odor. It is chemical feedstock for the manufacture of sulfa drugs and other pharmaceuticals, herbicides and pesticides, and in the manufacture of hydrocyanic acid. It has been used as a softener for paper and fiber. It is a solvent for many ionic compounds. It has also been used as a solvent for resins and plasticizers. Some astrobiologists suggest that it may be an alternative to water as the main solvent in other forms of life.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Butyronitrile</span> Chemical compound

Butyronitrile or butanenitrile or propyl cyanide, is a nitrile with the formula C3H7CN. This colorless liquid is miscible with most polar organic solvents.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Methyl isobutyl ketone</span> Chemical compound

Methyl isobutyl ketone (MIBK) is the common name for the organic compound 4-methylpentan-2-one, condensed chemical formula (CH3)2CHCH2C(O)CH3. This colourless liquid, a ketone, is used as a solvent for gums, resins, paints, varnishes, lacquers, and nitrocellulose.

Ethylenediamine (abbreviated as en when a ligand) is the organic compound with the formula C2H4(NH2)2. This colorless liquid with an ammonia-like odor is a basic amine. It is a widely used building block in chemical synthesis, with approximately 500,000 tonnes produced in 1998. Ethylenediamine is the first member of the so-called polyethylene amines.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Succinonitrile</span> Chemical compound

Succinonitrile, also butanedinitrile, is a nitrile, with the formula of C2H4(CN)2. It is a colorless waxy solid which melts at 58 °C.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Adiponitrile</span> Chemical compound

Adiponitrile is an organic compound with the chemical formula (CH2)4(CN)2. This viscous, colourless dinitrile is an important precursor to the polymer nylon 66. In 2005, about one million tonnes of adiponitrile were produced.

Ethylamine, also known as ethanamine, is an organic compound with the formula CH3CH2NH2. This colourless gas has a strong ammonia-like odor. It condenses just below room temperature to a liquid miscible with virtually all solvents. It is a nucleophilic base, as is typical for amines. Ethylamine is widely used in chemical industry and organic synthesis.

Electrosynthesis in chemistry is the synthesis of chemical compounds in an electrochemical cell. Compared to ordinary redox reaction, electrosynthesis sometimes offers improved selectivity and yields. Electrosynthesis is actively studied as a science and also has industrial applications. Electrooxidation has potential for wastewater treatment as well.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Nitroethane</span> Chemical compound

Nitroethane is an organic compound having the chemical formula C2H5NO2. Similar in many regards to nitromethane, nitroethane is an oily liquid at standard temperature and pressure. Pure nitroethane is colorless and has a fruity odor.

Acetone cyanohydrin (ACH) is an organic compound used in the production of methyl methacrylate, the monomer of the transparent plastic polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA), also known as acrylic. It liberates hydrogen cyanide easily, so it is used as a source of such. For this reason, this cyanohydrin is also highly toxic.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Benzyl cyanide</span> Chemical compound

Benzyl cyanide (abbreviated BnCN) is an organic compound with the chemical formula C6H5CH2CN. This colorless oily aromatic liquid is an important precursor to numerous compounds in organic chemistry.

In nitrile reduction a nitrile is reduced to either an amine or an aldehyde with a suitable chemical reagent.

Glycolonitrile, also called hydroxyacetonitrile or formaldehyde cyanohydrin, is the organic compound with the formula HOCH2CN. It is the simplest cyanohydrin and it is derived from formaldehyde. It is a colourless liquid that dissolves in water and ether. Because glycolonitrile decomposes readily into formaldehyde and hydrogen cyanide, it is listed as an extremely hazardous substance. In January 2019, astronomers reported the detection of glycolonitrile, another possible building block of life among other such molecules, in outer space.


  1. "propionitrile - Compound Summary". PubChem Compound. USA: National Center for Biotechnology Information. 26 March 2005. Identification. Retrieved 6 June 2012.
  2. 1 2 "Propionitrile". NIOSH Pocket Guide to Chemical Hazards. USA: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 4 April 2011. Identification. Retrieved 1 November 2013.
  3. Merck Index, 11th Edition, 7839
  4. CRC Handbook of Chemistry and Physics, 52nd Ed., p. D-153
  5. HSDB: Propionitrile , TOXNET, U.S. National Library of Medicine, retrieved 30 Oct 2015
  6. 1 2 3 4 5 6 NIOSH Pocket Guide to Chemical Hazards. "#0530". National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).
  7. 1 2 3 Peter Pollak, Gérard Romeder, Ferdinand Hagedorn, Heinz-Peter Gelbke "Nitriles" in Ullmann's Encyclopedia of Industrial Chemistry 2002, Wiley-VCH, Weinheim. doi : 10.1002/14356007.a17_363
  8. Willhite, Calvin C.; Ferm, Vergil H.; Smith, Roger P. (1981). "Teratogenic effects of aliphatic nitriles". Teratology. 23 (3): 317–323. doi:10.1002/tera.1420230306. PMID   6266064.
  9. 1 2 First Five-Year Review Report for Kalama Specialty Chemicals, Beaufort, Beaufort County, South Carolina, United States Environmental Protection Agency