Compounds Classified - Cyanide
- Published on Oct 20, 2014
- Cyanide was initially ‘discovered’ as a substance by Carl Wilhelm Scheele somewhere between 1757 and 1786, however it was not until later that it was recognized as a compound. In 1887, John Stewart MacArthur and Doctors Robert and William Forrest identified Cyanide’s chemical composition. There, in Glasgow Scotland, the modern process of creating Cyanide was developed; By combining methane and ammonia in the presence of oxygen with the addition of platinum to catalyze the reaction, Hydrogen Cyanide is formed.
Cyanide is the general term for any carbonitride in the cyano group. In every form of Cyanide, the core of the molecule is comprised of a carbon atom triple bonded to a nitrogen atom. Cyanide in its basic form is a negatively charged ion, and is highly reactive. As a result, there are many different forms of Cyanide within the group that differ depending on their inherent bonds with compatible elements.
Sodium Cyanide and Potassium Cyanide for instance are crystalline, and come in the form of salts. Both are solid in phase when at room temperature, and are visually clear or a cloudy white color. Sodium Cyanide is mildly corrosive, though not to an extent that makes it particularly dangerous to contact for short periods of time. Both Sodium Cyanide and Potassium Cyanide are highly reactive to acidic substances, and when exposed to aforementioned acids will undergo a hydrolytic reaction to form Hydrogen Cyanide.
Hydrogen Cyanide is a highly toxic substance, both in liquid and gaseous forms. As a liquid, it is slightly acidic and pale blue in color. Its boiling point is at 78°F, of which it transitions to a deadly gaseous form; Hydrogen Cyanide gas is colorless, and smells similar to bitter almonds, though the ability to sense the scent is a genetic trait present in only a fraction of humans. Hydrogen Cyanide tends to be the cause of deaths due to Cyanide poisoning, as other cyano compounds undergo reactions leading to the gaseous form quite readily. Even a low concentration of Hydrogen Cyanide can be deadly if exposure exceeds an hour, and high concentration can result in death within minutes. At 5.6% concentration, the gas is combustible and explosive. Hydrogen Cyanide can also be dissolved in water to form Hydrocyanic Acid.
The effects of Cyanide on the human body are extremely deadly, resulting in total organ failure after only a relatively small amount of exposure. Hydrogen Cyanide fills the lungs and enters the bloodstream, quickly making its way throughout the body. Diffusing into cells, the substance binds to ferrous material within mitochondria, essentially inhibiting the transfer of energy through electron chains. Without the ability to convert adenosine diphosphate into adenosine triphosphate, the cell is unable to maintain itself and will die. The cardiovascular and nervous systems tend to be the first affected by the widespread cellular collapse, and hypoxia of the heart and brain quickly lead to death.
The most common application of Cyanide is in mining as an agent used to treat ores, a process involving a slurry of sodium cyanide diluted in an alkaline liquid. The mixture can be applied to dissolve ores such as gold, and is useful for clean extraction. With its relatively simple production method, versatility in physical forms, and high toxicity, it is often used in suicides and homicides as well.
- Science & Technology