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CH3NO2, the simplest aliphatic nitro compound; a colorless liquid with an odor of bitter almonds. Boiling point, 101.2°C; density, 1.138 g/cm3 (20°C).
Nitromethane is soluble in water and is miscible with ordinary organic solvents (except paraffins); it forms an azeotrope with water (boiling point, 83.6°C; 76.4 percent nitromethane). It condenses readily with aldehydes, ketones, and ethylene oxide. For example, the reaction with formaldehyde is
CH3NO2 + CH2O → HOCH2CH2NO2
In industry, nitromethane is usually produced by degradative nitration of propane. It is used mainly as a solvent (for example, for cellulose ester varnishes and vinyl polymers), for the extraction of aromatic hydrocarbons, and in the production of chloropicrin and a number of explosives. Nitromethane is poisonous; its maximum permissible concentration in the air in working areas is 0.01 percent.