Skeletal formula of propanenitrile
Skeletal formula of propanenitrile with all explicit hydrogens added
Ball and stick model of propanenitrile
Preferred IUPAC name
Other names
3D model (JSmol)
ECHA InfoCard 100.003.151 Edit this at Wikidata
EC Number
  • 203-464-4
MeSH propionitrile
RTECS number
  • UF9625000
UN number 2404
  • InChI=1S/C3H5N/c1-2-3-4/h2H2,1H3 checkY
  • CCC#N
Molar mass 55.080 g·mol−1
Appearance Colourless 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
189.33 J K−1 mol−1
15.5 kJ mol−1
−1.94884–−1.94776 MJ mol−1
GHS labelling:
GHS02: Flammable
GHS06: Toxic
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)
REL (Recommended)
TWA 6 ppm (14 mg/m3)[6]
IDLH (Immediate danger)
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).
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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
Chemical structure of 2-MDP


The toxicity LD50 of propionitrile is listed as 39 mg/kg[8] and as 230 my (both rats, oral).[7]

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


  1. ^ a b "Propionitrile". NIOSH Pocket Guide to Chemical Hazards. USA: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 4 April 2011. Identification. Retrieved 1 November 2013.
  2. ^ Merck Index, 11th Edition, 7839
  3. ^ CRC Handbook of Chemistry and Physics, 52nd Ed., p. D-153
  4. ^ HSDB: Propionitrile, TOXNET, U.S. National Library of Medicine, retrieved 30 Oct 2015
  5. ^ "propionitrile - Compound Summary". PubChem Compound. USA: National Center for Biotechnology Information. 26 March 2005. Identification. Retrieved 6 June 2012.
  6. ^ a b c d e f NIOSH Pocket Guide to Chemical Hazards. "#0530". National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).
  7. ^ a b c 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. ^ PubChem: Propionitrile NIOSH Toxicity Data. Retrieved 6 Jan 2022.
  9. ^ a b First Five-Year Review Report for Kalama Specialty Chemicals, Beaufort, Beaufort County, South Carolina, United States Environmental Protection Agency