How is nitroethane prepared from ethyl iodide?

Published on November 23, 2023

How is Nitroethane Prepared from Ethyl Iodide?

The usefulness of chemical substances from the category of solvents cannot be underestimated. Except for the industrial use for the production of different chemical-based materials, solvents are quite important in chemical scientific research. For instance, they can enhance heat transfer during polymerization if their structure is useful for polymers. 

Nitroethane is one of the materials that is efficiently used as solvents for polymers, and polystyrene is particular. It’s also can be used to quickly dissolve cyanoacrylate adhesives, which makes it a useful product in many industries. Let’s learn more about the structure of the solution, its application, and its synthesis.

What is Nitroethane?

Nitroethane belongs to the class of organic compounds. Except for common Carbon, Hydrogen, and Nitrogen, its molecular formula also includes the Oxygen elements — C2H5NO2. This solution is known to share numerous physical features with Nitromethane. For instance, both compounds, in standard conditions, are represented in the form of oily liquids. 

However, unlike Nitromethane, nitroethane shows mainly broad absorption bands with diffuse structures, which can be interpreted as a result of the side-chain effect contributing to an increased number of internal degrees of freedom. Also, nitroethane is a colorless liquid that has a fruity odor. Despite this fruity odor, it’s necessary to take into consideration that the product is very dangerous to swallow or even inhale. Additionally, it’s highly flammable, which is why it’s mandatory to stick to strict safety measures while using the product.

According to the Chemical Abstracts Service (CAS) registry, the nitroethane product is indexed under the 79-24-3 number. Other important characteristics of the product include the following:

  • Molar mass (M): 75.07 g/mol
  • Boiling point (bp): 114-115 °C
  • ADR: 3 III 
  • EG-Nr: 201-188-9

What is Nitroethane Used For?

The structure, physical and chemical characteristics of this organic compound make it applicable for different reactions. That is the reason why it’s widely used in many commercial industries, including the following:

  • Medicine: Nitroethane can act as a useful compound to create precursors for different drugs through various reactions of condensations. For example, condensation with 3,4-dimethoxybenzaldehyde results in the synthesis of the precursor of methyldopa. Methyldopa is a powerful medication that has proven its usefulness when dealing with high blood pressure during pregnancy.
  • Energy industry: High flammability of the substance makes it a good additive to fuel. In particular, it’s used as a precursor to Rocket propellants.
  • Cosmetics: Thanks to the fact that nitroethane is a strong solvent that can efficiently dissolve polyester, it’s often used to make artificial solvents. Frequently, they are used in the cosmetic industry to remove artificial nails.

Nitroethane Synthesis

Nitroethane, a valuable organic compound used in various chemical syntheses, can be prepared through a synthetic process involving ethyl iodide. The preparation of nitroethane from ethyl iodide typically involves the reaction of ethyl iodide with a mixture of sodium nitrite (NaNO2) and concentrated hydrochloric acid (HCl). This reaction is known as the Henry reaction or the nitroaldol reaction.

In this process, ethyl iodide reacts with sodium nitrite in the presence of concentrated hydrochloric acid, resulting in the formation of nitroethane. The reaction proceeds through the formation of an intermediate nitroaldol product, which undergoes further acid-catalyzed dehydration to yield nitroethane. The synthesis requires careful control of reaction conditions, including temperature and acid concentration, to achieve optimal yields.

The preparation of nitroethane from ethyl iodide through the Henry reaction is an essential step in the synthesis of various chemicals and pharmaceutical intermediates. It showcases the importance of organic transformations in creating complex molecules from simpler starting materials. This process underscores the significance of careful reaction design and optimization in achieving efficient and controlled chemical syntheses.

Author: Chemist EU

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