The elusive acid called cyanoform (or tricyanomethane) has finally been isolated, according to reports made by researchers on Angewandte Chemie International Edition. Chemists have been searching for this acid for more than a century, now stating that the main problem and reason why they couldn’t find it was because of temperature.
Andreas Kornath, an inorganic chemist at Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich, states that researchers had long assumed that cyanoform is stable at room temperature. With a dedicated team working with him, they discovered that it was only stable on temperatures below 40 degrees Celsius.
A similar attempt to make cyanoform was also performed in 1896 by a chemist named Hermann Schmidtmann. His attempt failed and produced a solution with only minor traces of the unstable acid. Researchers believe this was due to the cyanoform decomposing so quickly that junk molecules would start to appear as a result of being kept at room temperature.
It was at frigid temperatures that Kornath and his colleagues finally created the acid, which turns out to be a colorless liquid. They used the same method as Schmidtmann, reacting a strong acid with a salt of cyanoform. Multiple trial and error experiments finally yielded results and they ended up with molecules perfectly matching the structure of cyanoform.
Daniel Kuroda, a physical chemist at the Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, states how theoretical chemistry “simply isn’t good enough” to accurately predict temperatures at which substances decompose, but admits that the recent discovery made with cyanoform “opens a lot of doors for chemistry.”