Ferrocyanide is the name of the anion [Fe(CN)6]4−. Salts of this coordination complex give yellow solutions. It is usually available as the salt potassium ferrocyanide, which has the formula K4Fe(CN)6. [Fe(CN)6]4− is a diamagnetic species, featuring low-spin iron(II) center in an octahedral ligand environment. Although many salts of cyanide are highly toxic, ferro- and ferricyanides are less toxic because they tend not to release free cyanide. It is of commercial interest as a precursor to the pigment Prussian blue.
Ferrocyanide may undergo oxidation, resulting in ferricyanide:
- [Fe(CN)6]4− ⇌ [Fe(CN)6]3− + e−
Use in biochemical research
Ferrocyanide and its oxidized product ferricyanide cannot freely pass through the plasma membrane. For this reason ferrocyanide has been used as a probe of extracellular electron receptor in the study of redox reactions in cells. Ferricyanide is used thus any increase in ferrocyanide can be attributed to secretions of reductants or transplasma membrane electron transport activity.
According to the recommendations of IUPAC, ferrocyanide should be called "hexacyanoferrate(II)." Cyanides as a chemical class were named because they were discovered in ferrocyanide. Ferrocyanide in turn was named in Latin to mean "blue substance with iron." The dye Prussian blue had been first made in the early 18th century. The word "cyanide" used in the name is from kyanos, Greek for "(dark) blue."