hydrogen cyanide

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hydrogen cyanide,

HCN, colorless, volatile, and extremely poisonous chemical compound whose vapors have a bitter almond odor. It melts at −14°C; and boils at 26°C;. It is miscible in all proportions with water or ethanol and is soluble in ether. Its water solution is a weak acid (see acids and basesacids and bases,
two related classes of chemicals; the members of each class have a number of common properties when dissolved in a solvent, usually water. Properties
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) commonly known as hydrocyanic acid or prussic acid. Its salts are called cyanidescyanide
, chemical compound containing the cyano group, -CN. Cyanides are salts or esters of hydrogen cyanide (hydrocyanic acid, HCN) formed by replacing the hydrogen with a metal (e.g., sodium or potassium) or a radical (e.g., ammonium or ethyl).
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. Hydrogen cyanide may be synthesized directly from ammonia and carbon monoxide or from ammonia, oxygen (or air), and natural gas. It is a byproduct of the production of coke from coal and is recovered (along with hydrogen sulfide) from coke-oven exhaust gases. It may also be prepared by reacting a cyanide salt, e.g., calcium cyanide, with a strong acid, e.g., sulfuric acid, or by thermal decomposition of formamide. Because impure hydrogen cyanide can undergo spontaneous explosive polymerization and decomposition, a small amount of stabilizer (usually phosphoric acid) is added to it. The principal use of hydrogen cyanide is in the manufacture of organic chemicals, e.g., acrylonitrile, methyl methacrylate, and adiponitrile, that are used in producing synthetic fibers and plastics. It is also used in the chemical laboratory, and is sometimes used in agriculture as a fumigant. Hydrogen cyanide is found in nature in some vegetable substances, e.g., bitter almond, peach stones, cherry and cherry laurel leaves, and sorghum; it is usually combined in glycoside molecules (see sugarsugar,
compound of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen belonging to a class of substances called carbohydrates. Sugars fall into three groups: the monosaccharides, disaccharides, and trisaccharides. The monosaccharides are the simple sugars; they include fructose and glucose.
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) and is released when they are broken down by enzymes during metabolism.

hydrogen cyanide

[′hī·drə·jən ′sī·ə‚nīd]
(inorganic chemistry)
References in periodicals archive ?
When combined with acid, it can produce a highly toxic flammable hydrogen cyanide gas.
One employee was overcome by hydrogen cyanide gas, but Elias told emergency rescue workers that the tank contained only water.
That's because the leaves of these vines have evolved powerful pesticides called cyanogens, chemicals that can release hydrogen cyanide gas.