What molecule am I?
Benzonitrile, the simplest cyanoaromatic, is a clear liquid with an almond-like odor. Methods for synthesizing it include
- heating sodium benzenesulfonate with NaCN,
- adding benzenediazonium chloride to a hot aqueous solution of NaCN and CuSO4,
- oxidizing toluene in the presence of ammonia,
- dehydrating benzamide, and
- treating bromobenzene with CuCN or NaCN.
Despite these many synthetic methods, the only uses for benzonitrile are as a solvent or a precursor to benzoguanamine, a derivative of melamine. But recently, the molecule was the subject of a “stellar” discovery.
Brett A. McGuire, at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory in Charlottesville, VA, and collaborators identified benzonitrile in interstellar dust. They estimate that the dust cloud is 430 light-years away. This is the first aromatic molecule to be discovered in space, even though astrochemists estimate that 10% of all interstellar carbon consist of polynuclear aromatics.
Learn more about this molecule from CAS, the most authoritative and comprehensive source for chemical information.