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CAS number 91-20-3 Yes check.svgY
ChemSpider 906
EC number 202-049-5
RTECS number QJ0525000
Molecular formula C10H8
Molar mass 128.17052 g/mol
Appearance White solid crystals/flakes,
strong odor of coal tar
Density 1.14 g/cm³
Melting point

80.26 °C, 353 K, 176 °F

Boiling point

218 °C, 491 K, 424 °F

Solubility in water Approximately 30 mg/L
R-phrases R22, R40, R50/53
S-phrases (S2), S36/37, S46, S60, S61
NFPA 704
NFPA 704.svg
Flash point 79 - 87 °C
525 °C
 Yes check.svgY (what is this?)  (verify)
Except where noted otherwise, data are given for materials in their standard state (at 25 °C, 100 kPa)
Infobox references

Naphthalene, also known as naphthalin, bicyclo[4.4.0]deca-1,3,5,7,9-pentene or antimite and not to be confused with naphtha, is a crystalline, aromatic, white, solid hydrocarbon with formula C10H8 and the structure of two fused benzene rings. It is best known as the traditional, primary ingredient of mothballs. It is volatile, forming a flammable vapor, and readily sublimes at room temperature, producing a characteristic odor that is detectable at concentrations as low as 0.08 ppm by mass.[1]



In 1819–1820, at least two chemists reported a white solid with a pungent odor derived from the distillation of coal tar. In 1821, John Kidd described many of this substance's properties and the means of its production, and proposed the name naphthaline, as it had been derived from a kind of naphtha (a broad term encompassing any volatile, flammable liquid hydrocarbon mixture, including coal tar).[2] Naphthaline's chemical formula was determined by Michael Faraday in 1826. The structure of two fused benzene rings was proposed by Emil Erlenmeyer in 1866,[3] and confirmed by Carl Gräbe three years later.

Structure and reactivity

A naphthalene molecule is derived by the fusion of a pair of benzene rings. (In organic chemistry, rings are fused if they share two or more atoms.) Accordingly, naphthalene is classified as a benzenoid polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH). There are two sets of equivalent hydrogen atoms: the alpha positions are positions 1, 4, 5, and 8 on the drawing below, and the beta positions are positions 2, 3, 6, and 7.

Unlike benzene, the carbon-carbon bonds in naphthalene are not of the same length. The bonds C1–C2, C3–C4, C5–C6 and C7–C8 are about 1.36 Å (136 pm) in length, whereas the other carbon-carbon bonds are about 1.42 Å (142 pm) long. This difference, which was established by x-ray diffraction, is consistent with the valence bond model of bonding in naphthalene that involves three resonance structures (as shown below); whereas the bonds C1–C2, C3–C4, C5–C6 and C7–C8 are double in two of the three structures, the others are double in only one.

Resonace structures of naphthalene

Like benzene, naphthalene can undergo electrophilic aromatic substitution. For many electrophilic aromatic substitution reactions, naphthalene reacts under milder conditions than does benzene. For example, whereas both benzene and naphthalene react with chlorine in the presence of a ferric chloride or aluminium chloride catalyst, naphthalene and chlorine can react to form 1-chloronaphthalene even without a catalyst. Similarly, whereas both benzene and naphthalene can be alkylated using Friedel-Crafts reactions, naphthalene can also be alkylated by reaction with alkenes or alcohols, with sulfuric or phosphoric acid as the catalyst.


Substituted derivatives

Two isomers are possible for mono-substituted naphthalenes, corresponding to substitution at an alpha or beta position. Usually, electrophiles attack at the alpha position. The selectivity for alpha over beta substitution can be rationalized in terms of the resonance structures of the intermediate: for the alpha substitution intermediate, seven resonance structures can be drawn, of which four preserve an aromatic ring. For beta substitution, the intermediate has only six resonance structures, and only two of these are aromatic. Sulfonation, however, gives a mixture of the "alpha" product 1-naphthalenesulfonic acid and the "beta" product 2-naphthalenesulfonic acid, with the ratio dependent on reaction conditions. The 1-isomer forms predominantly at 25 °C, and the 2-isomer at 160 °C.

Naphthalene can be hydrogenated under high pressure in the presence metal catalysts to give 1,2,3,4-tetrahydronaphthalene or tetralin (C10H12). Further hydrogenation yields decahydronaphthalene or decalin (C10H18). Oxidation with chromate or permanganate, or catalytic oxidation with O2 and a vanadium catalyst, gives phthalic acid.


Most naphthalene is derived from coal tar. From the 1960s until the 1990s, significant amounts of naphthalene were also produced from heavy petroleum fractions during petroleum refining, but today petroleum-derived naphthalene represents only a minor component of naphthalene production.

Naphthalene is the most abundant single component of coal tar. Although the composition of coal tar varies with the coal from which it is produced, typical coal tar is about 10% naphthalene by weight. In industrial practice, distillation of coal tar yields an oil containing about 50% naphthalene, along with a variety of other aromatic compounds. This oil, after being washed with aqueous sodium hydroxide to remove acidic components (chiefly various phenols), and with sulfuric acid to remove basic components, undergoes fractional distillation to isolate naphthalene. The crude naphthalene resulting from this process is about 95% naphthalene by weight, often referred to as 78°C (melting point). The chief impurities are the sulfur-containing aromatic compound benzothiophene (<2%), indane (0.2%), indene (<2%), and methylnapthalene (<2%). Petroleum-derived naphthalene is usually purer than that derived from coal tar. Where required, crude naphthalene can be further purified by recrystallization from any of a variety of solvents, resulting in 99% naphthalene by weight, referred to as 80 °C (melting point). Approximately 1M tons are produced annually.[4]

In North America, coal tar producers are Koppers Inc. and Recochem Inc., and petroleum-derived producer is Advanced Aromatics, L.P.

Natural occurrence

Trace amounts of naphthalene are produced by magnolias and specific types of deer, as well as the Formosan subterranean termite, possibly produced by the termite as a repellant against "ants, poisonous fungi and nematode worms."[5] Some strains of the endophytic fungus Muscodor albus produce naphthalene among a range of volatile organic compounds, while Muscodor vitigenus produces naphthalene almost exclusively.[6]

Naphthalene has been found in meteorites that continue to fall to the surface of the Earth. It has also been discovered in the interstellar medium in the direction of the star Cernis 52 in the constellation Perseus.[7]

Gaseous naphthalene

Recent research at the University of Georgia, led by Dr. Michael Duncan, has shown that protonated cations of naphthalene are the source of part of the spectrum of the Unidentified Interstellar Bands (UIBs). The gaseous naphthalene found in space is different from crystalline form typically used in mothballs in that it has an additional Hydrogen atom, with the empirical formula: C10H9+. The UIBs have been observed by astronomers, and until recently, there has been no solid evidence identifying the compounds responsible for them. The research has recently been publicized as "Mothballs in Space."[8]


As a chemical intermediate

Naphthalene is mainly used as a precursor to other chemicals. The single largest use of naphthalene is the industrial production of phthalic anhydride, although more phthalic anhydride is made from o-xylene. Other naphthalene-derived chemicals include alkyl naphthalene sulfonate surfactants, and the insecticide 1-naphthyl-N-methylcarbamate (carbaryl). Naphthalenes substituted with combinations of strongly electron-donating functional groups, such as alcohols and amines, and strongly electron-withdrawing groups, especially sulfonic acids, are intermediates in the preparation of many synthetic dyes. The hydrogenated naphthalenes tetrahydronaphthalene (tetralin) and decahydronaphthalene (decalin) are used as low-volatility solvents. Naphthalene is also used in the synthesis of 2-naphthol, a precursor for various dyestuffs, pigments, rubber processing chemicals and other miscellaneous chemicals and pharmaceuticals.[4]

Naphthalene sulfonic acids are used in the manufacture of naphthalene sulfonate polymer plasticizers (dispersants) which are used to produce concrete and plasterboard (wallboard or drywall). They are also used as dispersants in synthetic and natural rubbers, and as tanning agents (syntans) in leather industries, agricultural formulations (dispersants for pesticides), dyes and as a dispersant in Lead-acid battery plates.

Naphthalene sulfonate polymers are produced by reacting naphthalene with sulfuric acid and then polymerizing with formaldehyde, followed by neutralization with sodium hydroxide or calcium hydroxide. These products are commercially sold in solution (water) or dry powder form.

H2SO4 + C10H8 = C10H7-SO3H + H2O
C10H7-SO3H + CH2-O = C10H7-SO3H-(C10H7-SO3H)n + H2SO4
  • Neutralization Step (Naphthalene Sulfonic Acid Condensate plus Sodium Hydroxide):
C10H7-SO3H-(C10H7-SO3H)n + NaOH = C10H7-SO3Na-(C10H7-SO3Na)n + H2O + Na2SO4

Wetting Agent/Surfactant

Alkyl naphthalene sulfonates (ANS) are used in many industrial applications as nondetergent wetting agents that effectively disperse colloidal systems in aqueous media. The major commercial applications are in the agricultural chemical industry, which uses ANS for wettable powder and wettable granular (dry-flowable) formulations, and the textile and fabric industry, which utilizes the wetting and defoaming properties of ANS for bleaching and dyeing operations.

As a fumigant

Naphthalene's most familiar use is as a household fumigant, such as in mothballs although 1,4-dichlorobenzene (or p-dichlorobenzene) is now more widely used. In a sealed container containing naphthalene pellets, naphthalene vapors build up to levels toxic to both the adult and larval forms of many moths that attack textiles. Other fumigant uses of naphthalene include use in soil as a fumigant pesticide, in attic spaces to repel animals and insects, and in museum storage-drawers and cupboards to protect the contents from attack by insect pests.

Niche applications

It is used in pyrotechnic special effects such as the generation of black smoke and simulated explosions. In the past, naphthalene was administered orally to kill parasitic worms in livestock. Naphthalene and its alkyl homologs are the major constituents of creosote. Naphthalene is used in engineering to study heat transfer using mass sublimation.

Health effects

Exposure to large amounts of naphthalene may damage or destroy red blood cells. Humans, particularly children, have developed this condition, known as hemolytic anemia, after ingesting mothballs or deodorant blocks containing naphthalene. Symptoms include fatigue, lack of appetite, restlessness, and pale skin. Exposure to large amounts of naphthalene may cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, blood in the urine, and jaundice (yellow coloration of the skin).[citation needed]

When the U.S. National Toxicology Program exposed male and female rats and mice to naphthalene vapors on weekdays for two years,[9] male and female rats exhibited evidence of carcinogenic activity based on increased incidences of adenoma and neuroblastoma of the nose, female mice exhibited some evidence of carcinogenic activity based on increased incidences of alveolar and bronchiolar adenomas of the lung, and male mice exhibited no evidence of carcinogenic activity.

The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC)[10] classifies naphthalene as possibly carcinogenic to humans and animals [Group 2B]. The IARC also points out that acute exposure causes cataracts in humans, rats, rabbits, and mice; and that hemolytic anemia, described above, can occur in children and infants after oral or inhalation exposure or after maternal exposure during pregnancy.

Over 400 million people have an inherited condition called glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase deficiency. Exposure to naphthalene is more harmful for these people and may cause hemolytic anemia at lower doses.[citation needed]

See also


  1. ^ Amoore J E and Hautala E (1983). "Odor as an aid to chemical safety: Odor thresholds compared with threshold limit values and volatiles for 214 industrial chemicals in air and water dilution". J Appl Toxicology 3 (6): 272–290. doi:10.1002/jat.2550030603. 
  2. ^ John Kidd (1821). "Observations on Naphthalene, a peculiar substance resembling a concrete essential oil, which is apparently produced during the decomposition of coal tar, by exposure to a red heat". Philosophical Transactions 111: 209–221. doi:10.1098/rstl.1821.0017. 
  3. ^ Emil Erlenmeyer (1866). "Studien über die s. g. aromatischen Säuren". Annalen der Chemie und Pharmacie 137 (3): 327–359. doi:10.1002/jlac.18661370309. 
  4. ^ a b Gerd Collin, Hartmut Höke, Helmut Greim "Naphthalene and Hydronaphthalenes"in Ullmann's Encyclopedia of Industrial Chemistry Wiley-VCH, Weinheim, 2003. DOI: 10.1002/14356007.a17_001.pub2. Article Online Posting Date: March 15, 2003.
  5. ^ BBC News
  6. ^ Naphthalene, an insect repellent, is produced by Muscodor vitigenus, a novel endophytic fungus.
  7. ^ Science Daily
  8. ^ "Error: no |title= specified when using {{Cite web}}". Retrieved December 25 2008. 
  9. ^ "NTP Technical Reports 410 and 500". NTP Technical Reports 410 and 500, available from NTP: Long-Term Abstracts & Reports. Retrieved March 6 2005. 
  10. ^ "IARC Monographs on the Evaluation of Carcinogenic Risks to Humans". Monographs on the Evaluation of Carcinogenic Risks to Humans, Some Traditional Herbal Medicines, Some Mycotoxins, Naphthalene and Styrene, Vol. 82 (2002) (p. 367). Retrieved December 25 2008. 
  • CRC Handbook of Chemistry and Physics 87th edition

External links


1911 encyclopedia

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Simple English

Naphthalene (not to be confused with Naphtha) is a crystalline, white hydrocarbon, with a strong smell. It is best known as the main ingredient in mothballs, and is also in urinal deodorizer blocks. Other names for naphthalene are naphthalin, naphthaline, tar camphor, white tar, albocarbon, or naphthene. It is used as an antiseptic. In mothballs, it is used as an insecticide or pesticide.

Naphthalene is toxic. In humans, being exposed to naphthalene can destroy red blood cells. Naphthalene may also cause cancer.

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