potassium cyanide

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A white crystalline or granular deliquescent solid, KCN, soluble in water and in ethanol and having a faint characteristic odour of almonds (due to hydrolysis forming hydrogen cyanide at the surface); cubic; r.d. 1.52; m.p. 634°C. It is prepared industrially by the absorption of hydrogen cyanide in potassium hydroxide. The compound is used in the extraction of silver and gold, in some metal-finishing processes and electroplating, as an insecticide and fumigant (source of HCN), and in the preparation of cyanogen derivatives. In the laboratory it is used in analysis, as a reducing agent, and as a stabilizing ligand for low oxidation states. The salt itself is highly toxic and aqueous solutions of potassium cyanide are strongly hydrolysed to give rise to the slow release of equally toxic hydrogen cyanide gas.

Subjects: Chemistry.

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