Ammonium Cyanate shows N-H...N Hydrogen Bonding, not N-H...O

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


  • EJ Maclean
  • RR Tykwinski
  • IP Swainson
  • JD Dunitz

Colleges, School and Institutes


The transformation of ammonium cyanate into urea, first studied over 170 years ago by Wöhler and Liebig, has an important place in the history of chemistry. To understand the nature of this solid state reaction, knowledge of the crystal structure of ammonium cyanate is a prerequisite. Employing neutron powder diffraction, we demonstrate conclusively that, in the structure of ammonium cyanate, the NH(4)(+) cation forms N-H...N hydrogen bonds to four cyanate N atoms at alternate corners of a distorted cube, rather than our previously proposed alternative arrangement with N-H...O hydrogen bonds to cyanate O atoms at the other four corners.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)14449-14451
Number of pages3
JournalJournal of the American Chemical Society
Issue number47
Publication statusPublished - 26 Nov 2003