Nitroethane: Properties, Uses, and Hazards

Nitroethane is the simplest organic nitro compound with chemical formula C2H5NO2 and CAS number 79-24-3. It is a colorless oily liquid similar to nitromethane with a mild fruity odor. The substance is fully miscible with ethanol, acetone, and ethyl ether. It is only slightly soluble in water. Its solubility is 4.6 g/100 ml at 20 °C.

The chemical freeze at -90 °C, and boils at 112.0 to 116.0 °C depending on the pressure. Besides, nitroethane has the following properties:

  • molar mass: 75.07 g·mol−1,
  • density: 1.054 g/cm3,
  • flash point: 30 °C,
  • melting point: 89 °C.

The compound is incompatible with strong bases and oxidizing agents, amines, strong acids, combustible materials, metal oxides, and alkalis.


In the course of industrial nitroethane preparation, propane is treated with nitric acid at 350 – 450°C. As the result of this exothermic reaction, the four industrially significant nitroalkanes are produced: nitroethane, nitromethane, 2-nitropropane, and 1-nitropropane.

Alternatively, it is possible to obtain this organic by the Victor Meyer reaction. This process includes haloethanes, like bromoethane, chloroethane, or iodoethane and tetrahydrofuran or silver nitrite in diethyl ether.

Application and Uses

Most of nitroethane uses include its being an intermediate in organic synthesis reactions. It is applied to convert some compounds of commercial interest, like the antihypertensive drug methyldopa, phenyl-2-nitropropene, etc. Besides, it is often a precursor to certain explosives.

The chemical can serve as a solvent for polymers and cyanoacrylate adhesives. It is one of the main component of the artificial nail remover. The compound can also be found in overhead ceiling sealant sprays. Moreover, this organic may be applied as a fuel additive.

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Nitroethane is a toxic chemical. Its inhalation or ingestion can cause poisoning. The compound is suspected to cause genetic damage and harm to nervous system in case of prolonged or repeated exposure. It is harmful to aquatic life and produces prolonged effect.

Both liquid and vapor of the substance can ignite easily. Its contact with some materials may lead to fire or explosion.

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