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(also 3,7-dimethyl-2,6-octadienal), a terpene aldehyde. Citral is a light yellow liquid with the structural formula
It has a strong lemon-like odor. Citral is insoluble in water but soluble in alcohol and ether. It has a boiling point of 228°–229°C and a density of 0.887 g/cm3 at 20°C.
Citral consists of a mixture of two stereoisomeric forms: the trans form α-citral (I), or geranial, and the cis form β-citral (II), or neral. A component of many essential oils, it is separated industrially from these oils—especially from lemongrass oil, which contains up to 80 percent citral. It is also synthesized from such compounds as isoprene, acetylene, and acetone.
Citral is used as an ingredient of flavorings, perfumes, and drugs. It is also used as a raw material in the production of vitamin A and many valuable odoriferous substances, including citronellol, ionone, methylionone, iralia, and hydroxycitronellal.