of products in these reactions may be examined by Clicking Here.
The previous reactions have all involved reagents of the type: Y–NH2, i.e. reactions with a 1º-amino group. Most aldehydes and ketones also react with 2º-amines to give products known as enamines. Two examples of these reactions are presented in the following diagram. It should be noted that, like acetal formation, these are acid-catalyzed reversible reactions in which water is lost. Consequently, enamines are easily converted back to their carbonyl precursors by acid-catalyzed hydrolysis. A mechanism for enamine formation may be seen by pressing the "Show Mechanism" button.
The last example of reversible addition is that of hydrogen cyanide (HC≡N), which adds to aldehydes and many ketone to give products called cyanohydrins.
RCH=O + H–C≡N RCH(OH)CN (a cyanohydrin)
Since hydrogen cyanide itself is an acid (pKa = 9.25), the addition is not acid-catalyzed. In fact, for best results cyanide anion, C≡N(-) must be present, which means that catalytic base must be added. Cyanohydrin formation is weakly exothermic, and is favored for aldehydes, and unhindered cyclic and methyl ketones. Two examples of such reactions are shown below.
The cyanohydrin from benzaldehyde is named mandelonitrile. The reversibility of cyanohydrin formation is put to use by the millipede Apheloria corrugata in a remarkable defense mechanism. This arthropod releases mandelonitrile from an inner storage gland into an outer chamber, where it is enzymatically broken down into benzaldehyde and hydrogen cyanide before being sprayed at an enemy.
The distinction between reversible and irreversible carbonyl addition reactions may be clarified by considering the stability of alcohols having the structure shown below in the shaded box.
If substituent Y is not a hydrogen, an alkyl group or an aryl group, there is a good chance the compound will be unstable (not isolable), and will decompose in the manner shown. Most hydrates and hemiacetals (Y = OH & OR), for example, are known to decompose spontaneously to the corresponding carbonyl compounds. Aminols (Y = NHR) are intermediates in imine formation, and also revert to their carbonyl precursors if dehydration conditions are not employed. Likewise, α-haloalcohols (Y = Cl, Br & I) cannot be isolated, since they immediately decompose with the loss of HY. In all these cases addition of H–Y to carbonyl groups is clearly reversible.
If substituent Y is a hydrogen, an alkyl group or an aryl group, the resulting alcohol is a stable compound and does not decompose with loss of hydrogen or hydrocarbons, even on heating. It follows then, that if nucleophilic reagents corresponding to H:(–), R:(–) or Ar:(–) add to aldehydes and ketones, the alcohol products of such additions will form irreversibly. Free anions of this kind would be extremely strong bases and nucleophiles, but their extraordinary reactivity would make them difficult to prepare and use. Fortunately, metal derivatives of these alkyl, aryl and hydride moieties are available, and permit their addition to carbonyl compounds.
Addition of a hydride anion to an aldehyde or ketone would produce an alkoxide anion, which on protonation should yield the corresponding alcohol. Aldehydes would give 1º-alcohols (as shown) and ketones would give 2º-alcohols.
RCH=O + H:(–) RCH2O(–) + H3O(+) RCH2OH
Two practical sources of hydride-like reactivity are the complex metal hydrides lithium aluminum hydride (LiAlH4) and sodium borohydride (NaBH4). These are both white (or near white) solids, which are prepared from lithium or sodium hydrides by reaction with aluminum or boron halides and esters. Lithium aluminum hydride is by far the most reactive of the two compounds, reacting violently with water, alcohols and other acidic groups with the evolution of hydrogen gas. The following table summarizes some important characteristics of these useful reagents.
|ethanol; aqueous ethanol|
15% NaOH; diglyme
avoid strong acids
|aldehydes to 1º-alcohols|
ketones to 2º-alcohols
inert to most other functions
|1) simple neutralization |
2) extraction of product
|Lithium Aluminum Hydride|
| ether; THF|
avoid alcohols and amines
avoid halogenated compounds
avoid strong acids
| aldehydes to 1º-alcohols|
ketones to 2º-alcohols
carboxylic acids to 1º-alcohols
esters to alcohols
epoxides to alcohols
nitriles & amides to amines
halides & tosylates to alkanes
most functions react
|1) careful addition of water|
2) remove aluminum salts
3) extraction of product
Some examples of aldehyde and ketone reductions, using the reagents described above, are presented in the following diagram. The first three reactions illustrate that all four hydrogens of the complex metal hydrides may function as hydride anion equivalents which bond to the carbonyl carbon atom. In the LiAlH4 reduction, the resulting alkoxide salts are insoluble and need to be hydrolyzed (with care) before the alcohol product can be isolated. In the borohydride reduction the hydroxylic solvent system achieves this hydrolysis automatically. The lithium, sodium, boron and aluminum end up as soluble inorganic salts. The last reaction shows how an acetal derivative may be used to prevent reduction of a carbonyl function (in this case a ketone). Remember, with the exception of epoxides, ethers are generally unreactive with strong bases or nucleophiles. The acid catalyzed hydrolysis of the aluminum salts also effects the removal of the acetal. This equation is typical in not being balanced (i.e. it does not specify the stoichiometry of the reagent).
Reduction of α,β-unsaturated ketones by metal hydride reagents sometimes leads to a saturated alcohol, especially with sodium borohydride. This product is formed by an initial conjugate addition of hydride to the β-carbon atom, followed by ketonization of the enol product and reduction of the resulting saturated ketone (equation 1 below). If the saturated alcohol is the desired product, catalytic hydrogenation prior to (or following) the hydride reduction may be necessary. To avoid reduction of the double bond, cerium(III) chloride is added to the reaction and it is normally carried out below 0 ºC, as shown in equation 2.
|1) RCH=CHCOR'||+||NaBH4 (aq. alcohol)||——>||RCH=CHCH(OH)R'||+||RCH2-CH2CH(OH)R'|
|1,2-addition product||1,4-addition product|
|2) RCH=CHCOR'||+||NaBH4 & CeCl3 -15º||——>||RCH=CHCH(OH)R'|
Before leaving this topic it should be noted that diborane, B2H6, a gas that was used in ether solution to prepare alkyl boranes from alkenes, also reduces many carbonyl groups. Consequently, selective reactions with substrates having both functional groups may not be possible. In contrast to the metal hydride reagents, diborane is a relatively electrophilic reagent, as witnessed by its ability to reduce alkenes. This difference also influences the rate of reduction observed for the two aldehydes shown below. The first, 2,2-dimethylpropanal, is less electrophilic than the second, which is activated by the electron withdrawing chlorine substituents.
Dissolving Metal Reduction
The two most commonly used compounds of this kind are alkyl lithium reagents and Grignard reagents. They are prepared from alkyl and aryl halides, as discussed earlier. These reagents are powerful nucleophiles and very strong bases (pKa's of saturated hydrocarbons range from 42 to 50), so they bond readily to carbonyl carbon atoms, giving alkoxide salts of lithium or magnesium. Because of their ring strain, epoxides undergo many carbonyl-like reactions, as noted previously. Reactions of this kind are among the most important synthetic methods available to chemists, because they permit simple starting compounds to be joined to form more complex structures. Examples are shown in the following diagram.
A common pattern, shown in the shaded box at the top, is observed in all these reactions. The organometallic reagent is a source of a nucleophilic alkyl or aryl group (colored blue), which bonds to the electrophilic carbon of the carbonyl group (colored magenta). The product of this addition is a metal alkoxide salt, and the alcohol product is generated by weak acid hydrolysis of the salt. The first two examples show that water soluble magnesium or lithium salts are also formed in the hydrolysis, but these are seldom listed among the products, as in the last four reactions. Ketones react with organometallic reagents to give 3º-alcohols; most aldehydes react to produce 2º-alcohols; and formaldehyde and ethylene oxide react to form 1º-alcohols (examples #5 & 6). When a chiral center is formed from achiral reactants (examples #1, 3 & 4) the product is always a racemic mixture of enantiomers.
Two additional examples of the addition of organometallic reagents to carbonyl compounds are informative. The first demonstrates that active metal derivatives of terminal alkynes function in the same fashion as alkyl lithium and Grignard reagents. The second example again illustrates the use of acetal protective groups in reactions with powerful nucleophiles. Following acid-catalyzed hydrolysis of the acetal, the resulting 4-hydroxyaldehyde is in equilibrium with its cyclic hemiacetal.
Reactions with Phosphorus and Sulfur Ylides
The metal hydride reductions and organometallic additions to aldehydes and ketones, described above, both decrease the carbonyl carbon's oxidation state, and may be classified as reductions. As noted, they proceed by attack of a strong nucleophilic species at the electrophilic carbon. Other useful reductions of carbonyl compounds, either to alcohols or to hydrocarbons, may take place by different mechanisms. For example, hydrogenation (Pt, Pd, Ni or Ru catalysts), reaction with diborane, and reduction by lithium, sodium or potassium in hydroxylic or amine solvents have all been reported to convert carbonyl compounds into alcohols. However, the complex metal hydrides are generally preferred for such transformations because they give cleaner products in high yield.
Aldehydes and ketones may also be reduced by hydride transfer from alkoxide salts.
The reductive conversion of a carbonyl group to a methylene group requires complete removal of the oxygen, and is called deoxygenation. In the shorthand equation shown here the [H] symbol refers to unspecified reduction conditions which effect the desired change. Three very different methods of accomplishing this transformation will be described here.
R2C=O + [H] R2CH2 + H2O
1. Wolff-Kishner Reduction
Reaction of an aldehyde or ketone with excess hydrazine generates a hydrazone derivative, which on heating with base gives the corresponding hydrocarbon. A high-boiling hydroxylic solvent, such as diethylene glycol, is commonly used to achieve the temperatures needed. The following diagram shows how this reduction may be used to convert cyclopentanone to cyclopentane. A second example, in which an aldehyde is similarly reduced to a methyl group, also illustrates again the use of an acetal protective group. The mechanism of this useful transformation involves tautomerization of the initially formed hydrazone to an azo isomer, and will be displayed on pressing the "Show Mechanism" button. The strongly basic conditions used in this reaction preclude its application to base sensitive compounds.
2. Clemmensen Reduction
This alternative reduction involves heating a carbonyl compound with finely divided, amalgamated zinc. in a hydroxylic solvent (often an aqueous mixture) containing a mineral acid such as HCl. The mercury alloyed with the zinc does not participate in the reaction, it serves only to provide a clean active metal surface. The first example below shows a common application of this reduction, the conversion of a Friedel-Crafts acylation product to an alkyl side-chain. The second example illustrates the lability of functional substituents alpha to the carbonyl group. Substituents such as hydroxyl, alkoxyl & halogens are reduced first, the resulting unsubstituted aldehyde or ketone is then reduced to the parent hydrocarbon. A possible mechanism for the Clemmensen reduction will be displayed by clicking the "Show Mechanism" button.
3. Hydrogenolysis of Thioacetals
In contrast to the previous two procedures, this method of carbonyl deoxygenation requires two separate steps. It does, however, avoid treatment with strong base or acid. The first step is to convert the aldehyde or ketone into a thioacetal, as described earlier. These derivatives may be isolated and purified before continuing the reduction. The second step involves refluxing an acetone solution of the thioacetal over a reactive nickel catalyst, called Raney Nickel. All carbon-sulfur bonds undergo hydrogenolysis (the C–S bonds are broken by addition of hydrogen). In the following example, 1,2-ethanedithiol is used for preparing the thioacetal intermediate, because of the high yield this reactant usually affords. The bicyclic compound shown here has two carbonyl groups, one of which is sterically hindered (circled in orange). Consequently, a mono-thioacetal is easily prepared from the less-hindered ketone, and this is reduced without changing the remaining carbonyl function.
The carbon atom of a carbonyl group has a relatively high oxidation state. This is reflected in the fact that most of the reactions described thus far either cause no change in the oxidation state (e.g. acetal and imine formation) or effect a reduction (e.g. organometallic additions and deoxygenations). The most common and characteristic oxidation reaction is the conversion of aldehydes to carboxylic acids. In the shorthand equation shown here the [O] symbol refers to unspecified oxidation conditions which effect the desired change. Several different methods of accomplishing this transformation will be described here.
RCH=O + [O] RC(OH)=O
In discussing the oxidations of 1º and 2º-alcohols, we noted that Jones' reagent (aqueous chromic acid) converts aldehydes to carboxylic acids, presumably via the hydrate. Other reagents, among them aqueous potassium permanganate and dilute bromine, effect the same transformation. Even the oxygen in air will slowly oxidize aldehydes to acids or peracids, most likely by a radical mechanism. Useful tests for aldehydes, Tollens' test, Benedict's test & Fehling's test, take advantage of this ease of oxidation by using Ag(+) and Cu(2+) as oxidizing agents (oxidants).
RCH=O + 2 [Ag(+) OH(–)] RC(OH)=O + 2 Ag (metallic mirror) + H2O
When silver cation is the oxidant, as in the above equation, it is reduced to metallic silver in the course of the reaction, and this deposits as a beautiful mirror on the inner surface of the reaction vessel. The Fehling and Benedict tests use cupric cation as the oxidant. This deep blue reagent is reduced to cuprous oxide, which precipitates as a red to yellow solid. All these cation oxidations must be conducted under alkaline conditions. To avoid precipitation of the insoluble metal hydroxides, the cations must be stabilized as complexed ions. Silver is used as its ammonia complex, Ag(NH3)2(+), and cupric ions are used as citrate or tartrate complexes.
Saturated ketones are generally inert to oxidation conditions that convert aldehydes to carboxylic acids. Nevertheless, under vigorous acid-catalyzed oxidations with nitric or chromic acids ketones may undergo carbon-carbon bond cleavage at the carbonyl group. The reason for the vulnerability of the alpha-carbon bond will become apparent in the following section.
For a summary of the fundamental reactions of aldehydes and ketones Click Here
Reactions at the α-Carbon
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