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Cyanide vs. Nitrile: What's the Difference?

Edited by Huma Saeed || By Sumera Saeed || Published on January 6, 2024
Cyanide is a highly toxic compound containing a carbon-nitrogen triple bond linked to a metal or hydrogen. Nitrile is an organic compound with a carbon-nitrogen triple bond, but part of a larger molecule.

Key Differences

Cyanide is a chemical compound known for its high toxicity, containing a carbon-nitrogen triple bond attached to a metal or hydrogen atom. Nitrile, on the other hand, is an organic compound with a similar carbon-nitrogen triple bond but integrated into a larger molecular structure.
Huma Saeed
Jan 06, 2024
Cyanides, like hydrogen cyanide and potassium cyanide, are lethal at low doses due to their ability to inhibit cellular respiration. Nitriles, such as acetonitrile, are less toxic and are used in industrial applications, including as solvents.
Sumera Saeed
Jan 06, 2024
Cyanide ions are negatively charged (CN-), making them highly reactive. Nitriles contain the -C≡N functional group but are part of a larger, more stable molecule.
Sumera Saeed
Jan 06, 2024
The use of cyanide is heavily regulated due to its toxicity, and it is found in some industrial processes and pesticides. Nitriles are more commonly encountered in everyday life, in products like nitrile rubber and pharmaceuticals.
Sumera Saeed
Jan 06, 2024
In terms of chemical synthesis, cyanides are used in small quantities for specific reactions. Nitriles are used more broadly in organic chemistry for the synthesis of a variety of compounds.
Janet White
Jan 06, 2024
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Comparison Chart

Chemical Structure

Carbon-nitrogen triple bond linked to a metal or hydrogen
Carbon-nitrogen triple bond part of a larger molecule
Sumera Saeed
Jan 06, 2024

Toxicity

Highly toxic, lethal at low doses
Generally less toxic
Sumera Saeed
Jan 06, 2024

Charge

Often negatively charged (CN-)
Neutral as part of a larger molecule
Huma Saeed
Jan 06, 2024

Common Uses

Industrial processes, pesticides
Solvents, nitrile rubber, pharmaceuticals
Sumera Saeed
Jan 06, 2024

Stability

Highly reactive
More stable within a larger molecule
Sumera Saeed
Jan 06, 2024
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Cyanide and Nitrile Definitions

Cyanide

Known for its ability to inhibit cellular respiration.
Cyanide poisoning occurs because it disrupts the body's oxygen utilization.
Janet White
Dec 23, 2023

Nitrile

An organic compound with a carbon-nitrogen triple bond.
Acetonitrile is a common nitrile used as a solvent in laboratories.
Huma Saeed
Dec 23, 2023

Cyanide

Used in small quantities in chemical synthesis.
Certain organic reactions in the laboratory involve cyanide.
Janet White
Dec 23, 2023

Nitrile

Less toxic than cyanide and used in industrial applications.
Nitrile gloves are popular in medical and chemical industries.
Janet White
Dec 23, 2023

Cyanide

A toxic compound with a carbon-nitrogen triple bond.
The use of cyanide in gold mining is controversial due to its environmental impact.
Sumera Saeed
Dec 23, 2023

Nitrile

Contains the -C≡N functional group.
Nitriles are important intermediates in organic chemistry.
Janet White
Dec 23, 2023

Cyanide

Can be found in compounds like hydrogen cyanide.
Hydrogen cyanide is a colorless, highly poisonous gas.
Janet White
Dec 23, 2023

Nitrile

Found in products like nitrile rubber and pharmaceuticals.
Nitrile rubber is used for making oil-resistant seals and hoses.
Sumera Saeed
Dec 23, 2023

Cyanide

Heavily regulated due to its lethal nature.
Handling cyanide requires strict safety protocols.
Janet White
Dec 23, 2023

Nitrile

More stable compared to cyanide compounds.
Nitriles are stable under conditions that would decompose cyanides.
Aimie Carlson
Dec 23, 2023

Cyanide

The anionic univalent CN group, or any of various salts or esters of hydrogen cyanide containing a CN group, especially the extremely poisonous compounds potassium cyanide and sodium cyanide.
Sumera Saeed
Dec 19, 2023

Nitrile

An organic molecule containing a CN group, an organic derivative of hydrocyanic acid.
Sumera Saeed
Dec 19, 2023

Cyanide

To treat (a metal surface) with cyanide to produce a hard surface.
Sumera Saeed
Dec 19, 2023

Nitrile

An oil-resistant copolymer of acrylonitrile and butadiene, used especially for disposable gloves, gaskets, seals, and tubing. Also called nitrile rubber.
Sumera Saeed
Dec 19, 2023

Cyanide

To treat (an ore) with cyanide to extract gold or silver.
Sumera Saeed
Dec 19, 2023

Nitrile

(organic chemistry) any of a class of organic compounds containing a cyano functional group -C≡N; they are named as derivatives of the appropriate carboxylic acid.
Sumera Saeed
Dec 19, 2023

Cyanide

Any compound containing the -C≡N group or the CN anion.
Sumera Saeed
Dec 19, 2023

Nitrile

A type of synthetic rubber formed by the copolymerisation of acrylonitrile and butadiene.
Sumera Saeed
Dec 19, 2023

Cyanide

(uncountable) Sodium or potassium cyanide, used in the extraction of gold and silver or as a poison.
Sumera Saeed
Dec 19, 2023

Nitrile

Any one of a series of compounds bearing the cyanide radical (-CN); particularly, one of those cyanides of alcohol radicals which, by boiling with acids or alkalies, produce a carboxyl acid, with the elimination of the nitrogen as ammonia.
Sumera Saeed
Dec 19, 2023

Cyanide

(uncountable) Hydrogen cyanide, or cyanide gas, a poisonous gas.
Sumera Saeed
Dec 19, 2023

Nitrile

Any of a class of organic compounds containing the cyano radical -CN
Sumera Saeed
Dec 19, 2023

Cyanide

(transitive) To treat or poison with cyanide.
Sumera Saeed
Dec 19, 2023

Cyanide

A compound formed by the union of cyanogen with an element or radical.
Sumera Saeed
Dec 19, 2023

Cyanide

Any of a class of organic compounds containing the cyano radical -CN
Sumera Saeed
Dec 19, 2023

Cyanide

An extremely poisonous salt of hydrocyanic acid
Sumera Saeed
Dec 19, 2023

FAQs

Are nitriles toxic like cyanides?

Nitriles are generally less toxic than cyanides and are used in various industrial applications.
Sumera Saeed
Jan 06, 2024

What is a nitrile?

A nitrile is an organic compound containing a carbon-nitrogen triple bond as part of a larger molecule.
Huma Saeed
Jan 06, 2024

What are the uses of nitriles?

Nitriles are used in making nitrile rubber, solvents, and in the synthesis of pharmaceuticals.
Sumera Saeed
Jan 06, 2024

What is cyanide?

Cyanide is a highly toxic compound with a carbon-nitrogen triple bond attached to a metal or hydrogen.
Sumera Saeed
Jan 06, 2024

Why is cyanide so toxic?

Cyanide inhibits cellular respiration, preventing cells from using oxygen, which can be quickly lethal.
Sumera Saeed
Jan 06, 2024

Can cyanide be found naturally?

Yes, cyanide compounds can be found in certain plants and seeds in small amounts.
Janet White
Jan 06, 2024

Is nitrile rubber related to cyanide?

Nitrile rubber contains nitrile groups but is chemically different and much less toxic than cyanide.
Sumera Saeed
Jan 06, 2024

How is cyanide used industrially?

Cyanide is used in gold mining, electroplating, and as a chemical intermediate.
Sumera Saeed
Jan 06, 2024

Can cyanide be detected in the environment?

Yes, there are tests to detect cyanide in water and soil due to its environmental impact.
Sumera Saeed
Jan 06, 2024

Are nitrile gloves made from cyanide?

No, nitrile gloves are made from synthetic rubber containing nitrile groups, not cyanide.
Sumera Saeed
Jan 06, 2024

What precautions are needed when handling cyanide?

Strict safety protocols, including protective gear and proper ventilation, are essential when handling cyanide.
Aimie Carlson
Jan 06, 2024

Are cyanide compounds stable?

Cyanide compounds can be unstable and highly reactive.
Aimie Carlson
Jan 06, 2024

How are nitriles synthesized?

Nitriles are synthesized through various organic reactions, often involving ammonia derivatives.
Harlon Moss
Jan 06, 2024

How are cyanide and nitrile chemically different?

Cyanide is a simple ion or compound with a CN group, while nitrile is a more complex molecule containing a CN group.
Sumera Saeed
Jan 06, 2024

Can nitriles be converted into other compounds?

Yes, nitriles can be chemically transformed into a variety of other organic compounds.
Aimie Carlson
Jan 06, 2024

Is cyanide present in cigarette smoke?

Yes, small amounts of cyanide compounds can be found in cigarette smoke.
Janet White
Jan 06, 2024

What industries use nitrile?

Nitrile is used in the chemical, automotive, and pharmaceutical industries, among others.
Aimie Carlson
Jan 06, 2024

Can both cyanide and nitrile be found in a laboratory?

Yes, both can be found in a laboratory setting, but cyanide is handled with extreme caution due to its toxicity.
Janet White
Jan 06, 2024

Can cyanide be used in medical applications?

Due to its toxicity, cyanide is not typically used in medical applications.
Sumera Saeed
Jan 06, 2024

Is cyanide ever used in pharmaceuticals?

Cyanide is not used in pharmaceuticals due to its high toxicity.
Janet White
Jan 06, 2024
About Author
Written by
Sumera Saeed
Sumera is an experienced content writer and editor with a niche in comparative analysis. At Diffeence Wiki, she crafts clear and unbiased comparisons to guide readers in making informed decisions. With a dedication to thorough research and quality, Sumera's work stands out in the digital realm. Off the clock, she enjoys reading and exploring diverse cultures.
Edited by
Huma Saeed
Huma is a renowned researcher acclaimed for her innovative work in Difference Wiki. Her dedication has led to key breakthroughs, establishing her prominence in academia. Her contributions continually inspire and guide her field.

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