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As for most amides, the spectroscopic evidence indicates partial double bond character for the C-N and C-O bonds. Thus, the infrared spectrum shows a C=O stretching frequency at only 1675 cm-1, whereas a ketone would absorb near 1700 cm-1. The ambient temperature 1H NMR spectrum shows separate methyl signals, indicative of hindered rotation about the (O)C-N bond.
DMF is miscible with water. The vapour pressure at 20 °C is 3.5 hPa. A Henry's law constant of 7.47 × 10-5 hPa m3 mol−1 can be deduced from an experimentally determined equilibrium constant at 25 °C. The partition coefficient log POW is measured to -0.85. Since the density of DMF (0.95 g cm−3 at 20 °C) is similar to that of water, significant flotation or stratification in surface waters in case of accidental losses is not expected.
Left: two resonance structures of DMF. Right: illustration highlighting delocalization.
DMF is hydrolyzed by strong acids and bases, especially at elevated temperatures. With sodium hydroxide, DMF converts to formate and dimethylamine. DMF undergoes decarbonylation near its boiling point to give dimethylamine. Distillation is therefore conducted under reduced pressure at lower temperatures.
In one of its main uses in organic synthesis, DMF was a reagent in the Vilsmeier-Haack reaction, which is used to formylate aromatic compounds. The process involves initial conversion of DMF to a chloroiminium ion, [(CH3)2N=CH(Cl)]+, known as a Vilsmeier reagent, which attacks arenes.
The primary use of DMF is as a solvent with low evaporation rate. DMF is used in the production of acrylic fibers and plastics. It is also used as a solvent in peptide coupling for pharmaceuticals, in the development and production of pesticides, and in the manufacture of adhesives, synthetic leathers, fibers, films, and surface coatings.
It is also used in the manufacturing of solvent dyes as an important raw material. It is consumed during reaction.
Pure acetylene gas cannot be compressed and stored without the danger of explosion. Industrial acetylene is safely compressed in the presence of dimethylformamide, which forms a safe, concentrated solution. The casing is also filled with agamassan, which renders it safe to transport and use.
As a cheap and common reagent, DMF has many uses in a research laboratory.
DMF-d7 in the presence of a catalytic amount of KOt-Bu under microwave heating is a reagent for deuteration of polyaromatic hydrocarbons.
Reactions including the use of sodium hydride in DMF as a solvent are somewhat hazardous; exothermic decompositions have been reported at temperatures as low as 26 °C. On a laboratory scale any thermal runaway is (usually) quickly noticed and brought under control with an ice bath and this remains a popular combination of reagents. On a pilot plant scale, on the other hand, several accidents have been reported.
On the 20 of June 2018, the Danish Environmental Protective Agency published an article about the DMF's use in squishies. The density of the compound in the toy resulted in all squishes being removed from the Danish market. All squishies were recommended to be thrown out as household waste.
The acute LD50 (oral, rats and mice) is 2.2-7.55 g/kg. Hazards of DMF have been examined.
^IPCS (International Programme on Chemical Safety) (1991). Environmental Health Criteria 114 "Dimethylformamide" United Nations Environment Programme, International Labour Organisation, World Health Organization; 1-124.
^ abVilsmeier, Anton; Haack, Albrecht (1927). "Über die Einwirkung von Halogenphosphor auf Alkyl-formanilide. Eine neue Methode zur Darstellung sekundärer und tertiärer p-Alkylamino-benzaldehyde" [On the reaction of phosphorus halides with alkyl formanilides. A new method for the preparation of secondary and tertiary p-alkylamino-benzaldehyde]. Ber. Dtsch. Chem. Ges. A/B (in German). 60 (1): 119-122. doi:10.1002/cber.19270600118.
^Verley, A. (1893). "Sur la préparation des amides en général" [On the preparation of amides in general]. Bulletin de la Société Chimique de Paris. 3rd series (in French). 9: 690-692. On p. 692,
Verley states that DMF is prepared by a procedure analogous to that for the preparation of dimethylacetamide (see p. 691), which would be by distilling dimethylamine hydrochloride and potassium formate.
^Weissermel, K.; Arpe, H.-J. (2003). Industrial Organic Chemistry: Important Raw Materials and Intermediates. Wiley-VCH. pp. 45-46. ISBN3-527-30578-5.
^Redlich, C.; Beckett, W. S.; Sparer, J.; Barwick, K. W.; Riely, C. A.; Miller, H.; Sigal, S. L.; Shalat, S. L.; Cullen, M. R. (1988). "Liver disease associated with occupational exposure to the solvent dimethylformamide". Annals of Internal Medicine. 108 (5): 680-686. doi:10.7326/0003-4819-108-5-680. PMID3358569.