An explosive, poisonous, flammable liquid, boiling at 171 °F (77.3°C), partly soluble in water. It may be regarded as vinyl cyanide, and its systematic name is 2-propenonitrile. Acrylonitrile is prepared by ammoxidation of propylene over various sorts of catalysts, chiefly metallic oxides.

Most of the acrylonitrile produced is consumed in the manufacture of acrylic and modacrylic fibers. Substantial quantities are used in acrylonitrile-butadiene-styrene (ABS) resins, in nitrile elastomers, and in the synthesis of adiponitrile by electrodimer­ization. Smaller amounts of acrylonitrile are used in cyanoethylation reactions, in the synthesis of drugs, dyestuffs, and pesticides, and as co-monomers with vinyl acetate, vinylpyridine, and similar monomers.

Acrylonitrile undergoes spontaneous polymerization, often with explosive force. It polymerizes violently in the presence of suitable alkaline substances.