Acetonitrile is the chemical compound with formula CH3CN. This colourless liquid is the simplest organic nitrile. It is produced mainly as a byproduct of acrylonitrile manufacture. It is mainly used as a polar aprotic solvent in purification of butadiene.
In the laboratory, it is used as a medium-polarity solvent that is miscible with water and has a convenient liquid range. With a dipole moment of 3.84 D, acetonitrile dissolves a wide range of ionic and nonpolar compounds and is useful as a mobile phase in HPLC and LCMS.
Acetonitrile shortage in 2008-2009
Starting in October 2008, the worldwide supply of acetonitrile was low because Chinese production was shut down for the Olympics. Furthermore, a U.S. factory was damaged in Texas during Hurricane Ike. Owing to the global economic slowdown, the production of acrylonitrile that is used in acrylic fibers and acrylonitrile-butadiene-styrene (ABS) resins decreased. Because acetonitrile is a byproduct in the production of acrylonitrile, its production has also decreased. The global shortage of acetonitrile continued through early 2009.
Acetonitrile is used mainly as a solvent in the purification of butadiene in refineries.
It is widely used in battery applications because of its relatively high dielectric constant and ability to dissolve electrolytes. For similar reasons it is a popular solvent in cyclic voltammetry. Its low viscosity and low chemical reactivity make it a popular choice for liquid chromatography. Acetonitrile plays a significant role as the dominant solvent used in the manufacture of DNA oligonucleotides from monomers. Industrially, it is used as a solvent for the manufacture of pharmaceuticals and photographic film.
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