Du Pont Central Research - Cyanocarbon Chemistry

Cyanocarbon Chemistry

Cyanocarbon Backbone
Structural unit of

cyanocarbon molecules.

During the 1960s and 1970s, CRD developed a program under the direction of Theodore Cairns to synthesize long-chain cyanocarbons analogous to long-chain fluorocarbons like Teflon. The work culminated in a series of twelve papers in the Journal of the American Chemical Society in 1958. Several authors of those papers grew to prominent positions at DuPont including Richard E. Benson (Associate Director, CRD), Theodore L. Cairns (Research Director, CRD), Richard E. Heckert (CEO of DuPont), William D. Phillips (Associate Director, CRD), Howard E. Simmons (Research Director and VP, CRD), and Susan A. Vladuchick (Plant Manager). This trend indicates the importance of technical qualification for promotion in the company at that time. The publication stimulated other researchers to investigate these compounds.





Prospective applications included dyes, pharmaceuticals, pesticides, organic magnets, and incorporation in new types of polymers. No commercial applications resulted from this extensive research effort. Partly for this work, Cairns was awarded medals for Creative Work in Synthetic Organic Chemistry by the American Chemical Society and the Synthetic Organic Award of the Chemical Manufacturers Association. Another line of chemistry developed around Owen Webster’s synthesis of diiminosuccinonitrile (DISN) that could be converted to diaminomaleonitrile (DAMN) leading to another series of patent and papers. Simmons used disodium dimercaptomaleonitrile for the preparation many novel substances of including tetracyanothiophene, tetracyanopyrrole, and pentacyanocyclopentadiene.

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