Reactivity in Chemistry

Carbonyl Addition

CO8. Protonation of the Alkoxide Anion

   After the addition of an anionic nucleophile, reaction mixtures are usually treated with or water or dilute aqueous acid.  The acid provides a proton that can be picked up by the alkoxide ion formed in the nucleophilic addition.  An alcohol is formed as a result.  Overall, carbonyl addition reactions usually involve addition of a nucleophile to the carbonyl carbon and addition of a proton to the carbonyl oxygen.

    The order of these steps can be very important.  On paper, a carbonyl could be turned into an alcohol by adding a proton to the carbonyl oxygen, and then adding a nucleophile to the carbonyl carbon.  However, things might not work out that way in reality.  The potential problem lies in the fact that anionic nucleophiles can be pretty basic.  If protons are added first, the anionic nucleophile is likely to pick up a proton rather than donate to the carbonyl.  Once the nucleophile has picked up a proton, it is no longer anionic, and is less attracted to the partially positive carbonyl.  Furthermore, it may have donated its only lone pair to the proton, leaving it completely unable to donate to the carbonyl.

Problem CO8.1.

Provide curved arrows and predict the direction of equilibrium in the following cases.





Problem CO8.2.

Suppose nucleophilic addition was performed in methanol (10 mL) as a solvent, using 25 microliters of cyclopentanone and an equimolar amount as the of sodium cyanide (that means the same number of moles of sodium cyanide as cyclopentanone).

  1. Show the mechanism for the reaction, using curved arrows in each step.
  2. Comment on how the use of methanol as a solvent (rather than just adding an equimolar amount of methanol) would influence the direction of equilibrium for the final protonation step.

Problem CO8.3.

Fill in the product or reagent for each of the following transformations. Remember there is always an acidic workup assumed.

Problem CO8.4.

Draw a mechanism with curved arrows for each of the transformations listed below. Show all intermediates. Assume an acidic workup.



This site is written and maintained by Chris P. Schaller, Ph.D., College of Saint Benedict / Saint John's University (with contributions from other authors as noted).  It is freely available for educational use.

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Structure & Reactivity in Organic, Biological and Inorganic Chemistry by Chris Schaller is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License

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This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. 1043566.

Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.



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