Naphthalene Overview

Naphthalene (not to be confused with naphtha) (also known as naphthalin, naphthaline, moth ball, tar camphor, white tar, or alb ocarbon), is a crystalline, aromatic, white, solid hydrocarbon, best known as the primary ingredient of mothballs. Naphthalene is volatile, forming a flammable vapor. Its molecules consist of two fused benzene rings. It is manufactured from coal tar, and converted to phthalic anhydride for the manufacture of plastics, dyes and solvents. It is also used as an antiseptic and insecticide, especially in mothballs. P-Dichlorobenzene is now often used instead of naphthalene as a mothball substitute. Naphthalene easily sublimates at room temperature. naphthalene   Structure and reactivity A naphthalene molecule is composed of two fused benzene rings. (In organic chemistry, rings are fused if they share two or more atoms.) Accordingly, naphthalene is classified as a benzene polyaromatic hydrocarbon (PAH). Naphthalene has three resonance structures, which are shown in the drawing below. Naphthalene has two sets of equivalent hydrogen. The alpha positions are positions 1, 4, 5, and 8 on the drawing below. The beta positions are positions 2, 3, 6, and 7. Unlike benzene, the carbon-carbon bonds in naphthalene are not of the same length. The bonds C1–C2, C3–C4, C5–C6 and C7–C8 are about 1.36 Å (136 pm) in length, whereas all the other carbon-carbon bonds are about 1.42 Å (142 pm) in length. This has been verified by x-ray diffraction and can be expected from the resonance structures, where the bonds C1–C2, C3–C4, C5–C6 and C7–C8 are double in two of the three structures, whereas all the others are double in only one.   Like benzene,naphthalene can undergo electrophilic aromatic substitution. For many electrophilic aromatic substitution reactions, naphthalene is more reactive than benzene, and reacts under milder conditions than does benzene.  


Most naphthalene is derived from coal tar. From the 1960s until the 1990s, significant amounts of naphthalene were also produced from heavy petroleum fractions during petroleum refining, but today petroleum-derived naphthalene represents only a minor component of naphthalene production. Naphthalene is the most abundant single component of coal tar. While the composition of coal tar varies with the coal from which it is produced, typical coal tar is about 10% naphthalene by weight. In industrial practice, distillation of coal tar yields oil containing about 50% naphthalene, along with a variety of other aromatic compounds. This oil, after being washed with aqueous sodium hydroxide to remove acidic components, chiefly various phenols, and with sulfuric acid to remove basic components, is fractionally distilled to isolate naphthalene.

Naphthalene’s most familiar use is as a household fumigant, such as in mothballs. In a sealed container containing naphthalene pellets, naphthalene vapors build up to levels toxic to both the adult and larval forms of many moths that are destructive to textiles. Other fumigant uses of naphthalene include use in soil as a fumigant pesticide, and in attic spaces to repel animals. In the past, naphthalene was administered orally to kill parasitic worms in livestock. Larger volumes of naphthalene are used as a chemical intermediate to produce other chemicals. The single largest use of naphthalene is the industrial production of phthalic anhydride, although more phthalic anhydride is made from o-xylene than from naphthalene. Other naphthalene-derived chemicals include alkyl naphthalene sulfonate surfactants, and the insecticide carbaryl. Naphthalenes substituted with combinations of strongly electron-donating functional groups, such as alcohols and amines, and strongly electron-withdrawing groups, especially sulfonic acids, are intermediates in the preparation of many synthetic dyes. The hydrogenated naphthalenes tetrahydronaphthalene (Tetralin) and decahydronaphthalene (Decalin) are used as low-volatility solvents. Naphthalene vapour can also slow the onset of rust, such as the use of moth balls in a tool box.

CAS NO. 91-20-3
Molecular Formula C10H8
Naphthalin; Naphthaline; Moth balls; Naftalen; Coal tar camphor; Tar camphor; Naphthalin; White tar; Moth; Albocarbon; Dezodorator;
sales Specification
Appearance brown flake
PURITY 95.0 % min (JIS K 2436)
NON-VOLATILES 0.3 % max (JIS K 2436)
ASH 0.1% max (JIS K 2436)
FREEZING POINT 77.5 min (JIS K 2436)
SULFUR CONTENT 0.7 % max (ASTM D 129-91)
PHYSICAL STATE white solid
SOLUBILITY IN WATER Insoluble (3mg/100ml)
SULFUR CONTENT 0.7 % max (ASTM D 129-91)
NFPA RATINGS Health: 2; Flammability: 2; Reactivity: 0
STABILITY Stable under ordinary conditions. Hygroscopic.
HAZARD CLASS 4.1 (Packing Group: III)
UN NO. 1334
Naphthalene is a white, volatile aromatic hydrocarbon with characteristic odor; insoluble in water, somewhat soluble in methanol/ethanol, soluble in organic solvents and very soluble in ether, chloroform, or carbon disulfide. Commercially it is available in molten form or in flaked form. It has the molecular structure of two fused or condensed benzene rings sharing two adjacent carbon atoms; C10H8. Naphthalene is obtained from coal tar which is distilled in the temperature range of 170 – 230 C and is treated with a sodium hydroxide solution to remove phenols. Naphthalene is obtained by the isolation from pyrolysis residue oils, olefin fractions, and petroleum-derived fractions.