Open main menu

Benzyl cyanide (abbreviated BnCN) is an organic compound with the chemical formula C6H5CH2CN. This colorless oily aromatic liquid is an important precursor to numerous compounds in organic chemistry.[2]

Benzyl cyanide
Skeletal formula of benzyl cyanide
Ball-and-stick model of the benzyl cyanide molecule
Preferred IUPAC name
Other names
Benzyl cyanide[1]
3D model (JSmol)
ECHA InfoCard 100.004.919
Molar mass 117.15 g/mol
Appearance Colorless oily liquid
Density 1.015 g/cm3
Melting point −24 °C (−11 °F; 249 K)
Boiling point 233 to 234 °C (451 to 453 °F; 506 to 507 K)
-76.87·10−6 cm3/mol
Except where otherwise noted, data are given for materials in their standard state (at 25 °C [77 °F], 100 kPa).
☑Y verify (what is ☑Y☒N ?)
Infobox references


Benzyl cyanide can be produced via Kolbe nitrile synthesis between benzyl chloride and sodium cyanide[3] and by oxidative decarboxylation of phenylalanine.[4]

Chemical propertiesEdit

Benzyl cyanide can be hydrolyzed to give phenylacetic acid[5] or used in the Pinner reaction to yield phenylacetic acid esters.[6] The compound also forms an "active methylene unit" on the carbon between the aromatic ring and the nitrile functional group. This active carbon, referred to as a nitrile anion, is a useful reactive intermediate for the formation of new carbon-carbon bonds.[7][8][9]


Benzyl cyanide is used as a solvent[10] and as a starting material in the synthesis of fungicides,[11] fragrances (phenethyl alcohol), antibiotics,[2] and other pharmaceuticals. The partial hydrolysis of BnCN results in 2-phenylacetamide,[12] a known anticonvulsant.


Benzyl cyanide is a useful precursor to numerous pharmaceuticals. Examples include:


Because benzyl cyanide is a useful precursor to numerous drugs with recreational use potential, many countries strictly regulate the compound.

United StatesEdit

Benzyl cyanide is regulated in the United States as a DEA List I chemical.


Benzyl cyanide, like related benzyl derivatives, is an irritant to the skin and eyes.[2] It is toxic and produces the deadly poison hydrogen cyanide when burned.


  1. ^ a b Nomenclature of Organic Chemistry : IUPAC Recommendations and Preferred Names 2013 (Blue Book). Cambridge: The Royal Society of Chemistry. 2014. p. 16. doi:10.1039/9781849733069-FP001. ISBN 978-0-85404-182-4.
  2. ^ a b c Pollak, Peter; Romeder, Gérard; Hagedorn, Ferdinand; Gelbke, Heinz-Peter (2000). "Nitriles". Ullmann's Encyclopedia of Industrial Chemistry. doi:10.1002/14356007.a17_363.
  3. ^ Adams, Roger; Thal, A. F. (1922). "Benzyl cyanide". Organic Syntheses. 2: 9. doi:10.15227/orgsyn.002.0009.
  4. ^ Hiegel, Gene; Lewis, Justin; Bae, Jason (2004). "Conversion of α‐Amino Acids into Nitriles by Oxidative Decarboxylation with Trichloroisocyanuric Acid". Synthetic Communications. 34 (19): 3449–3453. doi:10.1081/SCC-200030958.
  5. ^ Adams, Roger; Thal, A. F. (1922). "Phenylacetic acid". Organic Syntheses. 2: 59. doi:10.15227/orgsyn.002.0059.
  6. ^ Adams, Roger; Thal, A. F. (1922). "Ethyl Phenylacetate". Organic Syntheses. 2: 27. doi:10.15227/orgsyn.002.0027.
  7. ^ Makosza, M.; Jonczyk, A (1976). "Phase-Transfer Alkylation of Nitriles: 2-Phenylbutyronitrile". Organic Syntheses. 55: 91. doi:10.15227/orgsyn.055.0091.
  8. ^ Itoh, Masumi; Hagiwara, Daijiro; Kamiya, Takashi (1988). "New Reagent for tert-Butoxycarbonylation: 2-tert-Butoxycarbonyloxyimino-2-phenylacetonitrile". Organic Syntheses. 6: 199. doi:10.15227/orgsyn.059.0095.
  9. ^ Wawzonek, Stanley; Smolin, Edwin M. (1955). "α-Phenylcinnamonitrile". Organic Syntheses. 3: 715. doi:10.15227/orgsyn.029.0083.
  10. ^ Bien, Hans-Samuel; Stawitz, Josef; Wunderlich, Klaus (2000). "Anthraquinone Dyes and Intermediates". Ullmann's Encyclopedia of Industrial Chemistry: 29. doi:10.1002/14356007.a02_355.
  11. ^ Ackermann, Peter; Margot, Paul; Müller, Franz (2000). "Fungicides, Agricultural". Ullmann's Encyclopedia of Industrial Chemistry. doi:10.1002/14356007.a12_085.
  12. ^ "PHENYLACETAMIDE". Organic Syntheses. 32: 92. 1952. doi:10.15227/orgsyn.032.0092. ISSN 0078-6209.
  13. ^ a b c d e f g h i William Andrew Publishing (2008). Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Encyclopedia (3rd ed.). Norwich, NY: Elsevier Science. pp. 182, 936, 1362, 1369, 1505, 2036, 2157, 2259, 2554, 2620, 2660, 2670, 2924, 3032, & 3410. ISBN 9780815515265.
  14. ^ Berkoff, Charles E.; Rivard, Donald E.; Kirkpatrick, David; Ives, Jeffrey L. (1980). "The Reductive Decyanation of Nitriles by Alkali Fusion". Synthetic Communications. 10 (12): 939–945. doi:10.1080/00397918008061855.
  15. ^ Bub, Oskar; Friedrich, Ludwig (2000). "Cough Remedies". Ullmann's Encyclopedia of Industrial Chemistry. doi:10.1002/14356007.a08_013.
  16. ^ Hropot, Max; Lang, Hans-Jochen (2000). "Diuretics". Ullmann's Encyclopedia of Industrial Chemistry. doi:10.1002/14356007.a09_029.
  17. ^ Furniss, Brian; Hannaford, Antony; Smith, Peter & Tatchell, Austin (1996). Vogel's Textbook of Practical Organic Chemistry 5th Ed. London: Longman Science & Technical. pp. 1174–1179. ISBN 9780582462366.
  18. ^ Bungardt, Edwin; Mutschler, Ernst (2000). "Spasmolytics". Ullmann's Encyclopedia of Industrial Chemistry. doi:10.1002/14356007.a24_515.

External linksEdit