Nitromethane

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Nitromethane is an organic compound with the chemical formula CH3NO2. It is the simplest organic nitro compound.

Properties

Chemical

Nitromethane burns when ignited in air, releasing combustion gasses.

Physical

Nitromethane is a colorless, slightly viscous, highly polar liquid. It is poorly soluble in water. It freezes at −29°C and boils at around 100°C

Availability

Nitromethane is often available from lab suppliers at a price of around $100/L. It is also sold in many places locally for use in RC fuel, either pure or as a mixture with methanol and oil. Separation of the nitromethane from this mixture can be quite difficult, but it is achievable with good technique.

Preparation

Nitromethane is produced industrially by treating propane with nitric acid at 350–450 °C. This exothermic reaction produces the four industrially significant nitroalkanes: nitromethane, nitroethane, 1-nitropropane, and 2-nitropropane. Nitromethane is then separated via fractional distillation.

Another method involves the reaction between sodium chloroacetate and sodium nitrite in aqueous solution:

ClCH2COONa + NaNO2 + H2O → CH3NO2 + NaCl + NaHCO3

Projects

Handling

Safety

Nitromethane is quite inflammable so it should not be handled around open flames or other ignition sources. Pure nitromethane is a powerful explosive, though it is rather insensitive and difficult to initiate. Gloves should be worn when working with nitromethane to prevent accidental skin contact.

Storage

In closed bottles away from any ignition sources.

Disposal

Nitromethane can be safely burned, though it's best to mix it with another fuel first, as the flame is nearly invisible.

Aqueous solution of sodium hydroxide will readily hydrolyze it to methanol, which can be safely burned.

  • No. The chemistry of C-Nitro compounds is very different to nitrite and nitrate esters. Hydrolysis of nitromethane by sodium hydroxide is messy and exothermic through potentially explosive thermal and shock sensitive salts/compounds ultimately to carbonate and ammonia. Bases are sensitisers of nitromethane. This is not a good plan. Marvin (talk) 12:42, 9 July 2016 (UTC)

References

Relevant Sciencemadness threads