Methyl nitrate

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Not to be confused with nitromethane or methyl nitrite.
Methyl nitrate
Methyl nitrate
Methyl Nitrate Ball and Stick.png
Methyl Nitrate Space Fill.png
IUPAC name
Methyl nitrate
Other names
nitric acid, methyl ester
3D model (Jmol)
ECHA InfoCard 100.009.039
Molar mass 77.04 g/mol
Appearance Liquid
Density 1.203 g/cm3, liquid
Melting point −82.3 °C (−116.1 °F; 190.8 K)[1]
Boiling point 64.6 °C (148.3 °F; 337.8 K) (explodes)[1]
Explosive data
Detonation velocity 6300 m s−1 [2]
Main hazards Toxic, High Explosive
Except where otherwise noted, data are given for materials in their standard state (at 25 °C [77 °F], 100 kPa).
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Infobox references

Methyl nitrate is the methyl ester of nitric acid and has the chemical formula CH3NO3. It is a colourless volatile liquid that is explosive.


It can be produced by the condensation of nitric acid and methanol:[3]

CH3OH + HNO3 → CH3NO3 + H2O

Methyl nitrate can be produced on a laboratory or industrial scale either through the distillation of a mixture of methanol and nitric acid, or by the nitration of methanol by a mixture of sulfuric and nitric acids. The first procedure is not preferred due to the great explosion danger presented by the methyl nitrate vapour. The second procedure is essentially identical to that of making nitroglycerin. However, the process is usually run at a slightly higher temperature and the mixture is stirred mechanically on an industrial scale instead of with compressed air.

Explosive properties[edit]

Methyl nitrate is a sensitive explosive. When ignited it burns extremely fiercely with a gray-blue flame. Methyl nitrate has a relatively low brisance in comparison to other explosives, including other nitrate esters.[citation needed] The sensitivity of methyl nitrate to initiation by detonation is among the greatest known, with even a number one blasting cap, the lowest power available, producing a near full detonation of the explosive.[citation needed]

Despite the superior explosive properties of methyl nitrate, it has not received application as an explosive due mostly to its high volatility, which prevents it from being stored or handled safely. It was used as a rocket fuel by Germany in World War II, in a mixture containing 25% methanol, which was named "myrol". This mixture would evaporate at a constant rate and so its composition would not change over time. It presents a slight explosive danger (it is somewhat difficult to detonate) and does not detonate easily via shock.[citation needed]


As well as being an explosive, methyl nitrate is toxic and causes headaches when inhaled.


  1. ^ a b CRC Handbook of Chemistry and Physics, 64th ed. 1983. pp. C–376. 
  2. ^ Meyer, R.; Köhler, J.; Homberg, A. (2007). Explosives (pdf) (6th ed.). Wiley-VCH. p. 212. ISBN 978-3-527-31656-4. 
  3. ^ Black, A. P.; Babers, F. H. (1939). "Methyl nitrate". Org. Synth. 19: 64.  ; Coll. Vol., 2, p. 412 

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