Dimethylformamide (DMF) is a clear, colorless, hygroscopic liquid with a slight amine odor. The solvent properties of DMF are particularly attractive because of the high dielectric constant, the aprotic nature of the solvent, its wide liquid range and low volatility. It is frequently used for chemical reactions and other applications, which require a high solvency power. The product is known as a universal solvent. The high solubility of polyacrylonitrile in DMF, together with the good miscibility of DMF in water makes DMF the preferred solvent for the production of acrylic fibers. Also the spinning of polyurethane based elastomers is performed from DMF based solutions. Another significant application is the use of DMF as a solvent for polyurethane-based coatings on leather and artificial leather fabrics.
DMF was first prepared in 1893 by the French chemist Albert Verley by distilling a mixture of dimethylamine hydrochloride and potassium formate. Nowadays, DMF is prepared by combining methyl formate and dimethylamine or by reaction of dimethylamine with carbon monoxide. Although currently impractical, DMF can also be prepared from supercritical carbon dioxide using ruthenium-based catalysts.
Manufacturing: As DMF is a solvent with low evaporation rate, it is mainly used in the production of acrylic fibers, plastics, adhesives, synthetic leathers, films and surface coatings. Another significant application is the use of DMF as a solvent for polyurethane-based coatings on leather and artificial leather fabrics.
Pharmaceuticals: The pharmaceutical industry uses DMF as a reaction and crystallization solvent because of its exceptional solvency parameters. In addition, DMF is able to penetrate most plastics and make them swell, thus suitable for solid phase peptide synthesis in the synthesis of pharmaceuticals.
Petrochemicals: DMF is used for the purification of acetylene from ethylene and butadiene from C4 streams. Also for the separation of aromatics, which can be easily dissolved by DMF from aliphatic hydrocarbons. Those aliphatics are used in lube oils. Due to the high solubility of SO2 in DMF, exhaust combustion streams from high sulfur containing fuels can be purified with CO2 being recovered.
Laboratory Chemical: DMF is a common and cheap reagent and thus has many uses in the chemistry and biology laboratories. It is a common solvent used in electrospinning, and also a common solvent used in many organic reactions.
Paint Stripper: Inorganic and organic based residual fluxes are highly soluble in DMF; therefore this solvent is used as a cleaner, for instance to clean hot-dip tinned parts.