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Metal hydride reagents such as lithium aluminum hydride, LiAlH4, and sodium borohydride, NaBH4, are commonly used to reduce carbonyl compounds. Aldehydes give 1º-alcohols, whereas ketones give 2º-alcohols. Lithium aluminum hydride is much more reactive than sodium borohydride, the former is used in ether or THF solution, the latter in alcoholic solutions. Both reduce aldehydes and ketones, but only lithium aluminum hydride reduces esters and amides. Reaction of lithium aluminum hydride with esters gives two alcohols, a 1º-alcohol derived from the acid component of the ester, and the alcohol component (unchanged).
Carbonyl compounds such as esters, anhydrides, amides and acyl halides are hydrolyzed by water. The products of the hydrolysis are the corresponding carboxylic acid and an organic or inorganic species that reflects the nature of the starting compound (eg. chloride from an acyl chloride & an alcohol from an ester). Most esters and amides require acid or base catalysts and heat for the hydrolysis to procede at a reasonable rate.
Common oxidation reagents for organic compounds are often compounds of Cr+6, such as Jones' reagent (H2CrO4 in aqueous acid), pyridinium chlorochromate (PCC) and pyridinium dichromate (PDC). These reagents are widely used to oxidize 1ºand 2º-alcohols. The products of such oxidations are aldehydes and ketones, respectively. Aldehydes themselves are capable of being oxidized further to carboxylic acids, but such oxidations often require that water be present. Ketones and esters are generally resistant to reagents and conditions that oxidize alcohols and aldehydes.