Acetonitrile is a chemical compound having the formula CH3CN. The simplest organic nitrile is a colorless liquid. Acetonitrile is mainly produced as a byproduct in the acrylonitrile manufacturing process. It is widely used in organic synthesis and the purification of butadiene as a polar aprotic solvent.


Acetonitrile is widely used in lithium batteries, as a solvent, and for spinning fibers. The polar nature of acetonitrile makes it a solvent for other organic compounds, and its high boiling point makes it ideal for allowing chemical reactions at even elevated temperatures. Acetonitrile is primarily found in automobile and industrial exhaust. Short-term inhalation exposure can cause mucous membrane irritation. While, long-term exposure may cause headaches, tremors, and numbness.


Boiling Point

The boiling point of acetonitrile at 760 mmHg is 178.9° F.


Melting Point

The melting point of acetonitrile is -49° F.



The density of acetonitrile is 0.787 at 68° F.



Polarity index, acetonitrile is at 5.8.


Complete Hydrogenation

The hydrogenation of acetonitrile consists of three steps. The nitrile is first hydrogenated to an imine. Then the imine is hydrogenated and forms the primary amine. Afterward, the imine and the primary amine react and make the secondary amine. Finally, the intermediate imine and the secondary amine react and make the tertiary amine.


Molar Mass

The molar mass of acetonitrile is 41.053 g/mol.



The pH of acetonitrile is 10.


Refractive Index

The refractive index of acetonitrile is 1.33934 at 30 oC.



The viscosity of acetonitrile at 20°C is 0.35 cP.


Acetonitrile is widely used as a solvent in the pharmaceutical industry for the formation of drugs. It is also used for spinning fibers and molding and casting plastic materials. It is also used in lithium batteries, fatty acids extraction from animal and vegetable oils, and in the detection of materials, e.g., pesticide residues in the chemical industries. Acetonitrile is also used to dye fabric and coat compositions. It also serves as a chemical intermediate in perfume production.


Hydrolysis of Acetonitrile

Hydrolysis of acetonitrile is a widely used synthetic procedure. Hydrolysis means the addition of a water molecule to the triple bond of the acetonitrile. The alkali metals (sodium (Na) and potassium (K)) attached to the cyanide group (‒C≡N) make the reaction deadly poisonous. The other factor responsible for the poisonous reaction is that most of the inorganic cyanides ionize when dissolved in water.  The reaction of acetonitrile hydrolysis is described as follows;

CH₃CN + 2 H₂O → CH₃COOH + NH₃

Acetic acid and ammonia are produced as a result of the hydrolysis of acetonitrile.


Toxicity of Acetonitrile

Acetonitrile is toxic. Contact with eyes or skin may cause irritation. If inhaled it may cause mutations in sex chromosomes and result in sex chromosome loss and nondisjunction or cause mutation during sister chromatid exchange. The target organs for acetonitrile are kidneys, liver, respiratory system, central nervous system, and cardiovascular system. Chronic exposure to acetonitrile in humans causes cyanide poisoning after absorption because of the cyanide release. The effects of chronic exposure may cause severe headaches, numbness, and tremors.

Animal studies have shown that acetonitrile may cause developmental and reproductive effects, e.g., a decrease in average fetal body weight and an increase in the chances of malformed offspring. No data has been reported for the carcinogenic potential of acetonitrile.

Disposal of Acetonitrile

Dispose of the waste according to the laboratory regulations. Do not mix the hazardous waste with other waste. Do not landfill or discharge into drains. Properly remove the waste and use an authorized waste incinerator.


Acetonitrile Polymerization

Acetonitrile mixed with sulfuric acid undergoes an uncontrollable exothermic reaction when heated (or self-heated) to 53 deg to 160 deg C in a few seconds, and the polymerization of nitrile occurs.

Let's work together!

Have questions? Ask anything!

This website uses cookies to improve your experience. By using this website you agree to our Privacy Policy.
Read more