Hydrogen cyanide molecule. Molecular model of hydrogen cyanide (HCN), a colourless, poisonous chemical compound with a faint almond-like odour. It is used in explosives, tempering steel (a heat treatment to toughen the steel) and capital punishment. The cyanide ion prevents cellular respiration and a concentration of just 300 parts per million in the air can kill a human in a few minutes. It was used by the Nazis during the twentieth century as a method of mass murder. Atoms are colour-coded: hydrogen (white), carbon (grey) and nitrogen (purple).
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