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The Collaborative International Dictionary

Nitrile \Ni"trile\ (? or ?), n. [See Nitro-.] (Chem.) Any one of a series of compounds bearing the cyanide radical ( -CN); particularly, one of those cyanides of alcohol radicals which, by boiling with acids or alkalies, produce a carboxyl acid, with the elimination of the nitrogen as ammonia.

Note: The nitriles are named with reference to the acids produced by their decomposition, thus, hydrocyanic acid is formic nitrile, methyl cyanide is acetonitrile (also acetic nitrile), and ethyl cyanide is propionitrile (from propionic acid).


n. (context organic compound English) The simplest organic cyanide or nitrile, CH3CN.


Acetonitrile is the chemical compound with the formula . This colourless liquid is the simplest organic nitrile ( hydrogen cyanide is a simpler nitrile, but the cyanide anion is not classed as organic). 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.

In the laboratory, it is used as a medium-polarity solvent that is miscible with water and a range of organic solvents, but not saturated hydrocarbons. It has a convenient liquid range and a high dielectric constant of 38.8. With a dipole moment of 3.92 D, acetonitrile dissolves a wide range of ionic and nonpolar compounds and is useful as a mobile phase in HPLC and LC-MS. The N-C-C skeleton is linear with a short C-N distance of 1.16 Å.

Acetonitrile was first prepared in 1847 by the French chemist Jean-Baptiste Dumas.

Acetonitrile (data page)

This page provides supplementary chemical data on acetonitrile.

Usage examples of "acetonitrile".

A preferred method for carrying out the process of this invention is as follows: Dry lysergic acid is suspended in a suitable vehicle as acetonitrile, and the suspension is cooled to about -15 C.

To the suspension is then added slowly a solution of about two equivalents of trifluoroacetic anhydride dissolved in acetonitrile and previously cooled to about -20 degrees C.

Among suitable dispersants are acetonitrile, dimethylformamide, propionitrile, and the like.

Of those listed above, acetonitrile is preferred since it is non-reactive and mobile at the temperature used, and is relatively volatile and hence readily separable from the reaction mixture by evaporation in vacuum.

The acetonitrile solution containing mixed anhydride is added to 150 ml.

The acetonitrile is evaporated, and the residue treated with chloroform and water as described in Example Two.