Preparation of Alkyl Halides

Dhristi JEE 2022-24

Introduction to Alkyl Halides

Alkyl halides (or haloalkanes) are the compounds in which one or more hydrogen atoms in an alkane are replaced by halogen atoms (fluorine, chlorine, bromine, or iodine). These are organic compounds with the general formula RX, where R denotes the alkyl group and X denotes the halogen (group 17 elements). Alkyl halides and aryl halides (also known as haloarenes) are the two different types of substituted hydrocarbons.


The major difference between both alkyl halides and aryl halides is that haloalkanes are derived from alkanes (open chain hydrocarbons) and haloarenes are derived from aromatic hydrocarbons. Now we will discuss the preparation of alkyl halides. Both haloalkanes and haloarenes can be prepared from other organic compounds. Some of the methods are given below.


Preparation of Alkyl Halides

1. Preparation of Alkyl Halides from Alkenes

The addition of hydrogen halides to alkenes either follows Markovnikov’s rule or the Kharash effect. All the electrophilic addition reactions of alkenes following the Markovnikov rule are known as Markovnikov addition reactions. (In a simple definition, it states that “Hydrogen is added to the carbon with the most hydrogens and the halide is added to the carbon with least hydrogens”.)


General Reaction

\[\underset{\text{Alkene}}{R - CH = CH_2} + \underset{\text{Hydrogen halide}}{H - X \to R - CH_2 - CH_2X}\] OR \[\underset{\text{Alkyl halide}}{R - CH_2X - CH_2}\]

Conversion of \[- C = C - (\text{Alkenes}) \text{into} - X (\text{Alkyl halides})\]

\[\underset{\text{Symmetric alkene}}{R - CH = CH - R } + \underset{\text{Hydrogen halide}}{H - X} \to \underset{\text{Alkyl halide}}{R - CH_2 - CHX - R}\]


Preparation of Alkyl Chloride / Alkyl Bromides / Alkyl Iodides:

\[\underset{\text{Symmetric alkene}}{R - CH = CH - R} + \underset{\text{Hydrogen chloride}}{H - Cl} \to \underset{\text{Alkyl chloride}}{R - CH_2 - CHCl - R} \]

\[ \underset{\text{Unsymmetric alkene}}{R - CH = CH - R' \,\,\,\, + \,\,\,\,H - X} \to\underset{\text{Hydrogen chloride}}{R - CH_2 - CHX - R'} \to \underset{\text{Alkyl halide}}{R - CHX - CH_2 - R'} \]


2. Preparation of Alkyl Halides by Free Radical Halogenation

In free radical halogenation, we get a mixture of mono-substituted, di-substituted, tri-substituted, and even tetra-substituted halo-alkanes (alkyl halides). Since we require only one type of alkyl halide and not all in the form of a mixture, So this method is not used. Free radical halogenation of alkane is a process where single hydrogen from the alkane group is substituted by a single halogen so as to form an alkyl halide which is alternatively known as haloalkanes. The radical formation is generally initiated by the presence of light which is a good example of a photochemical reaction. One of the simplest examples is the reaction of methane with chlorine gas in the presence of sunlight to result in the formation of chloromethane and hydrogen chloride gas.

\[CH_{3}CH_{2}CH_2CH_{3} \xrightarrow[]{Cl_{2} / UVlight} CH_{3}CH_{2}CHClCH_{3} + CH_{3}CH_{2}CH_{2}CH_{2}Cl\]

The structure of the alkane has been evaluated in order to choose between the high reactivity of chlorine and the high selectivity of bromine which is as follows:


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All the carbons in the above reaction are equivalent and therefore, the high reactivity of chlorine (Cl_{2}) is followed. 


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Here, as the above carbons are not equivalent to one another, therefore, there is a greater chance of the high selectivity of the bromine (\[Br_{2}\]) which will result in the formation of the tertiary halide. 


Allylic bromination: When there is a presence of halogen around the unsaturated carbon such as alkenes, the expected reaction that occurs is the addition reaction to the double bond carbons which results in the formation of the vicinal dihalide (halogens on adjacent carbons). So as to avoid the reaction of the halogen to the carbons that are in the double bond, that is, alkene carbons, the concentration of the halogen is kept low so that the substitution reaction takes place at the allylic position rather than addition at the double bond. So, the reaction ends up in the formation of the halogen with the carbon that is placed next to the double-bonded carbons which is known as allylic halides. It is obtained by a radical chain mechanism. 

\[CH_{2}=CHCH_{3} + X_{2}\] (in low conc.) \[\leftrightarrows CH_{2} = CHCH_{2} X + HX \]

Electrophilic substitution reaction: By this method, the preparation of aryl bromides and aryl chlorides becomes very easy. In the presence of the lewis acid, the electrophilic substitution reaction results in the formation of the aryl chlorides or aryl bromides by using halogens such as bromines and chlorines. In order to generate the proper electrophiles, certain specific conditions need to be maintained for the reaction to occur. The conditions for the reaction to occur is that the reaction should be carried out in the dark and there should be the presence of Lewis acid. Thus, the reactions to obtain the electrophiles are:

\[Cl_{2} + Fe \rightarrow FeCl_{3}\]

\[FeCl_{3} + Cl_{2} \rightarrow FeCl_{4} + Cl^{+} (to obtain Cl^{+} as an electrophile) \]

\[ Br_{2} + Fe  \rightarrow FeBr_{3}\]

\[ FeBr_{3} + Br_{2}  \rightarrow FeBr_{4} + Br^{+} (to obtain Br^{+} as an electrophile) \]

While HCl and HBr are the byproducts of the reaction, \[ Cl^{+} and Br^{+}\] are the electrophiles of the above-mentioned reactions. Therefore, the electrophilic substitution reaction for the preparation of aryl bromide and aryl chloride is


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3. Preparation of Alkyl Halides from Alcohols

In this reaction of synthesis of alkyl halides, the hydroxyl group of alcohol is replaced with the halogen atom attached to the other involved compound. The reaction requires a catalyst for primary and secondary alcohol whereas tertiary alcohol doesn’t require any catalyst.

\[CH_{3}CH_{2}OH + SOCl_{2} \overset{\Delta}{\rightarrow} CH_{3}CH_{2}Cl + SO_{2} + HCl\]

\[CH_{3}CH_{2}OH + PCl_{2} \overset{\Delta}{\rightarrow} CH_{3}CH_{2}Cl + P(OH)_{3} + HCl\]

\[CH_{3}CH_{2}OH + PCl_{5} \overset{\Delta}{\rightarrow} CH_{3}CH_{2}Cl + P(OH)_{3} + HCl\]

\[CH_{3}CH_{2}OH + PBr_{3} \overset{\Delta}{\rightarrow} CH_{3}CH_{2}Br + P(OH)_{3} + HBr\]


Preparation of Aryl Halides

1. Preparation of Aryl Halides by Electrophilic Substitution Reactions

Aryl halides can be prepared by an electrophilic aromatic substitution reaction of arenes with halogens in the presence of  Lewis acid.


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2. Preparation of Aryl Halides through Sandmeyer’s Reaction

Aryl halides can be prepared by mixing the solution of freshly prepared diazonium salt from the primary aromatic amine with cuprous chloride or cuprous bromide. In a Sandmeyer reaction, a diazonium salt is reacted with copper (I) bromide, copper (I) chloride, or potassium iodide (KI) to form the respective aryl halide. The diazonium salt can be prepared from aniline by reacting nitrous acid at cold temperatures.


Did You Know?

The order of reactivity of halogen acids towards alcohol is:

Order of Reactivity for Halogen acids: HI>HBr>HCl

In the case of halogen acids, bond length increases from HCl to HI. The longer the bond length, the lesser will be the dissociation energy, and hence, more will be reactivity.

FAQs on Preparation of Alkyl Halides

1. What is the difference between primary, secondary, and tertiary alkyl halides in general methods of preparation of alkyl halides?

Primary Alkyl Halide: In a primary (1°) alkyl halide (or haloalkanes), the carbon bonded to the halogen atom is only attached to one other alkyl group.


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Secondary Alkyl Halide: In the case of secondary (2°) alkyl halide (or haloalkanes), the carbon bonded to the halogen atom is joined directly to two other alkyl groups which can be of the same or different group.


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Tertiary Alkyl Halide: In the case of tertiary (3°) alkyl halide (or haloalkanes), the carbon atom holding the halogen is directly joined to three alkyl groups, which can be of any combination of the same or different groups.


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2. What are Alkyl Halides?

Alkyl halides (or haloalkanes) are compounds in which one or more hydrogen atoms in an alkane are replaced by halogen atoms (fluorine, chlorine, bromine, or iodine). Haloalkanes have little or no solubility in water in spite of the polar carbon-halogen bond. The attraction between the alkyl halide molecules is stronger as compared to the attraction between the alkyl halide and water.

3. What is the difference between Haloalkanes and Haloarenes?

The major difference between haloalkanes and haloarenes is that haloalkanes are derived from alkanes (open chain hydrocarbons) and haloarenes are derived from aromatic hydrocarbons (hydrocarbons with sigma bonds and delocalized pi electrons between carbon atoms forming rings).

4. What is the process of preparation of alkyl halides?

Upon the addition of halides, the alkyl halides are easily prepared by the alcohols. In this reaction, the hydroxyl group that is present in the alcohols is easily replaced by the halogen group or the atoms that are involved in the reaction and present in some of the other products.

5. State the number of ways by which alkyl halides can be prepared?

There are four different ways by which the alkyl halides can be prepared. Thus, the techniques and the methods that are used in the preparation of the haloalkanes or haloarene include preparation of haloalkanes and haloarenes from alcohols, hydrocarbons, alkenes by addition of hydrogen halides and halogens, and halogen exchange reactions. 

6. What is the method of preparation of the alkyl halides from alkenes?

Another important method for the preparation of the alkenes is with N-bromosuccinimide (NBS) in carbon tetrachloride (CCl4) solution with the presence of light. The reaction in particular results in the substitution of bromine with hydrogen attached to a carbon adjacent to the double bond – the allylic position.

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