Orthoformic acid or methanetriol is a hypothetical compound with the formula HC(OH)3. In this molecule, the central carbon is bound to one hydrogen and three hydroxyl groups.
Orthoformic acid has not been isolated to date, and is believed to be unstable, decomposing into water and formic acid.
Methanetriol esters, known as orthoformates, are well known and commercially available. Like acetals, they are stable towards bases but easily hydrolyzed in acidic conditions to the alcohol and an ester of formic acid. They are used are as mild dehydrating agent. Especially well known are trimethyl orthoformate, triethyl orthoformate, and triisopropyl orthoformate.
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