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A clear, poisonous liquid with an ether-like odor. Acetonitrile is produced as a byproduct in the formation of acrylonitrile polymers. It is a highly polar solvent that is miscible with a large number of solvents making it very useful for gradient changes in the polarity of eluent systems for liquid chromatography. Acetonitrile is also used to separate fatty acids from vegetable oils and is used in the manufacturing of synthetic pharmaceuticals.

Synonyms and Related Terms

methyl cyanide; cyanomethane; ethane nitrile

Chemical structure


Other Properties

Miscible with water, methanol, methyl acetate, acetone, ether acetamide solutions, chloroform, carbon tetrachloride, ethylene chloride and many unsaturated hydrocarbons. Immiscible with petroleum fractions.

Composition CH3CN
CAS 75-05-8
Melting Point -45
Density 0.78745
Molecular Weight mol. wt. = 41.0
Refractive Index 1.33934
Boiling Point 81.6

Hazards and Safety

Flammable. Poisonous. Overexposure may cause asphyxia, nausea, stupor, convulsions. Skin contact may cause irritation.

International Chemical Safety Card


Properties of Common Solvents

Sources Checked for Data in Record

  • Richard S. Lewis, Hawley's Condensed Chemical Dictionary, Van Nostrand Reinhold, New York, 10th ed., 1993
  • Random House, Webster's Encyclopedic Unabridged Dictionary of the English Language, Grammercy Book, New York, 1997
  • The Merck Index, Martha Windholz (ed.), Merck Research Labs, Rahway NJ, 10th edition, 1983 Comment: ref. index=1.33934
  • The American Heritage Dictionary or Encarta, via Microsoft Bookshelf 98, Microsoft Corp., 1998
  • CRC Handbook of Chemistry and Physics, Robert Weast (ed.), CRC Press, Boca Raton, Florida, v. 61, 1980 Comment: ref. index=1.342