Benzyl cyanide

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Benzyl cyanide
IUPAC name
Other names
phenylacetonitrile, α-Tolunitrile
140-29-4 YesY
ChEBI CHEBI:25979 YesY
ChemSpider 13839308 YesY
Jmol-3D images Image
KEGG C16074 YesY
PubChem 8794
Molar mass 117.15 g/mol
Appearance Colorless oily liquid
Density 1.015 g/cm3
Melting point −24 °C (−11 °F; 249 K)
Boiling point 233 to 234 °C (451 to 453 °F; 506 to 507 K)
Except where noted otherwise, data is given for materials in their standard state (at 25 °C (77 °F), 100 kPa)
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Infobox references

Benzyl cyanide (abbreviated BnCN) is an organic compound with the chemical formula C6H5CH2CN. This colorless oily aromatic liquid is an important precursor to numerous compounds in organic chemistry.[1]


Benzyl cyanide can be produced via Kolbe nitrile synthesis between benzyl chloride and sodium cyanide[2] or by oxidative decarboxylation of phenylalanine.[3]

Chemical Properties[edit]

Benzyl cyanide can be hydrolyzed to give Phenylacetic acid[4] or can be used in the Pinner reaction to yield phenylacetic acid esters.[5] The compound also forms an "active methylene unit" on the carbon between the aromatic ring and the nitrile functional group. This active carbon, referred to as a nitrile anion, is a useful reactive intermediate for the formation of new carbon-carbon bonds.[6][7][8]


Benzyl cyanide can be used as a solvent[9] or as a starting material in the synthesis of other compounds such as fungicides,[10] fragrances, antibiotics,[1] or other pharmaceuticals.


Benzyl cyanide is a useful precursor to numerous pharmaceuticals. Examples include:


Because benzyl cyanide is a useful precursor to numerous drugs with abuse potential, many countries strictly regulate the compound.

United States[edit]

Benzyl cyanide is regulated in the United States as a DEA List I chemical.


Benzyl cyanide, like related benzyl derivatives, is an irritant to the skin and eyes.[1] It is toxic and produces hydrogen cyanide when burned.


  1. ^ a b c Pollak, Peter; Romeder, Gérard; Hagedorn, Ferdinand; Gelbke, Heinz-Peter (2000). "Nitriles". Ullmann's Encyclopedia of Industrial Chemistry. doi:10.1002/14356007.a17_363. 
  2. ^ Adams, Roger; Thal, A. F. (1922). "Benzyl cyanide". Organic Syntheses 2: 9. doi:10.15227/orgsyn.002.0009. 
  3. ^ Hiegel, Gene; Lewis, Justin; Bae, Jason (2004). "Conversion of α‐Amino Acids into Nitriles by Oxidative Decarboxylation with Trichloroisocyanuric Acid". Synthetic Communications 34 (19): 3449–3453. doi:10.1081/SCC-200030958. 
  4. ^ Adams, Roger; Thal, A. F. (1922). "Phenylacetic acid". Organic Syntheses 2: 59. doi:10.15227/orgsyn.002.0059. 
  5. ^ Adams, Roger; Thal, A. F. (1922). "Ethyl Phenylacetate". Organic Syntheses 2: 27. doi:10.15227/orgsyn.002.0027. 
  6. ^ Makosza, M.; Jonczyk, A (1976). "Phase-Transfer Alkylation of Nitriles: 2-Phenylbutyronitrile". Organic Synthesis 55: 91. doi:10.15227/orgsyn.055.0091. 
  7. ^ Itoh, Masumi; Hagiwara, Daijiro; Kamiya, Takashi (1988). "New Reagent for tert-Butoxycarbonylation: 2-tert-Butoxycarbonyloxyimino-2-phenylacetonitrile". Organic Syntheses 6: 199. doi:10.15227/orgsyn.059.0095. 
  8. ^ Wawzonek, Stanley; Smolin, Edwin M. (1955). "α-Phenylcinnamonitrile". Organic Syntheses 3: 715. doi:10.15227/orgsyn.029.0083. 
  9. ^ Bien, Hans-Samuel; Stawitz, Josef; Wunderlich, Klaus (2000). "Anthraquinone Dyes and Intermediates". Ullmann's Encyclopedia of Industrial Chemistry: 29. doi:10.1002/14356007.a02_355. 
  10. ^ Ackermann, Peter; Margot, Paul; Müller, Franz (2000). "Fungicides, Agricultural". Ullmann's Encyclopedia of Industrial Chemistry. doi:10.1002/14356007.a12_085. 
  11. ^ a b c d e f g h i William Andrew Publishing (2008). Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Encyclopedia (3rd ed.). Norwich, NY: Elsevier Science. p. 182, 936, 1362, 1369, 1505, 2036, 2157, 2259, 2554, 2620, 2660, 2670, 2924, 3032, & 3410. ISBN 9780815515265. 
  12. ^ Berkoff, Charles E.; Rivard, Donald E.; Kirkpatrick, David; Ives, Jeffrey L. (1980). "The Reductive Decyanation of Nitriles by Alkali Fusion". Synthetic Communications 10 (12): 939–945. doi:10.1080/00397918008061855. 
  13. ^ Bub, Oskar; Friedrich, Ludwig (2000). "Cough Remedies". Ullmann's Encyclopedia of Industrial Chemistry. doi:10.1002/14356007.a08_013. 
  14. ^ Hropot, Max; Lang, Hans-Jochen (2000). "Diuretics". Ullmann's Encyclopedia of Industrial Chemistry. doi:10.1002/14356007.a09_029. 
  15. ^ Furniss, Brian; Hannaford, Antony; Smith, Peter; and Tatchell, Austin (1996). Vogel's Textbook of Practical Organic Chemistry 5th Ed. London: Longman Science & Technical. pp. 1174–1179. ISBN 9780582462366. 
  16. ^ Bungardt, Edwin; Mutschler, Ernst (2000). "Spasmolytics". Ullmann's Encyclopedia of Industrial Chemistry. doi:10.1002/14356007.a24_515. 

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