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Last updated date: 20th May 2024
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What is Sulfonation?

In chemistry, sulfonation, which is also referred to as Sulphonation, is any of the several methods by which the sulfonic acids are prepared. The reaction of aromatic hydrocarbons with sulfuric acid, chlorosulfonic acid, or sulfur trioxide; the reaction of organic halogen compounds with inorganic sulfites; and the oxidation of certain classes of organic sulfur compounds, particularly disulfides and thiols, are all important sulfonation procedures.

Sulfonation of a Few Compounds

Let us look at the sulfonation of a few compounds here.

Sulfonation of Benzene

The method of heating benzene with fuming sulphuric acid (H2SO4 + SO3) to form benzenesulfonic acid is known as sulfonation of benzene. This reaction, which is represented below, is reversible in nature.

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Sodium Xylenesulfonate

A hydrotrope is an organic compound that enhances the ability of water to dissolve other molecules. Sodium xylenesulfonate is a hydrotrope. Sodium xylene sulfonate is classified as a low-hazard substance, and the risk of adverse health effects associated with consumer and occupational use of this product is expected to be minimal.

Uses and Applications of Sodium Xylenesulfonate

Sodium xylene sulfonate can be used in shampoos and liquid household detergents, printing pastes, and degreasing compounds used in the textile industry. Also, it is a surfactant found in personal care products, mainly in shampoos, due to its ability to serve as a wetting agent or Clariant that helps a formula spread very quickly. In the paper industry, sodium xylene sulfonate can be used to remove lignin and pentosans, and in the leather industry, it can be used as a glue additive.

Sulphonation Reaction

The replacement of the hydrogen atom of an organic compound with sulfonic acid (-SO3H) functional group, often by the reaction with sulfuric acid at higher temperatures, is called Sulphonation.

“The introduction of a sulfonic acid group into an aromatic compound is referred to as sulphonation.”

A Few Examples are Listed Below

In the Case of Benzene

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In the Case of Phenols

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In the Case of Nitrobenzene

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In the Case of Naphthalene

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Dodecylbenzenesulfonic Acid

Dodecylbenzene is a kind of dodecylbenzene. Sulfonic acid is a dense liquid that ranges from light yellow to brown in color. It can be used to make detergents. Dodecylbenzene Sulfonic Acid lies on the Hazardous Substance List due to the reason it is cited by EPA and DOT. This particular chemical is present on the Special Health Hazard Substance List due to the reason it is CORROSIVE.

Sulphonation of Phenol

The reaction of the phenol with concentrated sulphuric acid is called sulphonation of phenol. The sulphonation product is determined by the operating temperature.

At a low temperature, phenol reacts with the concentrated H2SO4 to form o-phenol sulphonic acid. At a low temperature, the neighboring SO3H group and OH group interact with each other. Thus, ortho isomers predominate.

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At a high temperature, it is not possible to form any of the interactions, and thus steric repulsion overcomes the attraction. Therefore, at high temperatures, p-phenol sulphonic acid can be obtained as represented in the above figure.

Reason behind the benzene and Hexa deuterobenzene rate of reaction varies from sulphonation.

Protium contains one proton and zero neutrons in contrast to the Deuterium, which has a neutron, and hence, it is twice as heavy. That particular mass difference leads to smaller vibrations or a stronger, shorter bond.

Therefore, a Carbon-Deuterium bond is stronger in comparison with the Carbon-Protium bond.

In order to assess the impact of this difference in bond strength in the rate of an Electrophilic Aromatic Substitution, we should check the mechanism:

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As we can see, the actual electrophile in the sulfonation is given as SO3.

We have two steps: formation of the intermediate σ-complex (which is also called Wheland intermediate) and the subsequent shift of hydrogen (which is also called Deuterium) to restore the aromaticity.

The first step involves the loss of aromaticity and can be considered to be the slow step. And, in the second step, the protium or Deuterium-bond is broken. So, the second step is expected to be slower for the Deuterium in comparison with the protium.

Based on the fact that the first step is very slow, we do not expect an actual isotope effect.

It turns out that for the nitration and bromination, there is indeed no isotope effect; however—apparently — there is an isotope effect in the sulfonation reaction (although it depends on the conditions).

In order to explain this clearly, it means that the second step is the rate-determining or something else is going on:

In this way, this can be explained based on the fact - the first step can go back to the original situation. The rate constant of the inverse reaction is given as k−1.

We would not expect an actual difference in this inverse reaction between the Protium and Deuterium.

In the case where most of the intermediate product proceeds to the final reaction product  k−1<k2, we would expect no isotope effect.

In contrast to the cases where the reverse reaction can be faster or about equal to the reaction towards the end product (thus, k−1>k2 ). In those cases, we would expect to notice an isotopic effect.

FAQs on Sulfonation

1. What is a Linear Alkyl Benzene Sulphonic Acid?

Linear alkyl benzene sulphonic acids (which are LAS) are anionic surfactants. Linear alkyl benzene sulphonic acids are given as a mixture of sulphonic benzene acids having linear alkyl chains of varying lengths (such as C9: below 1%, C10: 8 - 16%, C11: 26 - 38%, C12: 26 - 38%, C13: 15 - 27% and longer than C13: below 2.5%).

2. Explain Why Alkanes Do Not Undergo Nitration?

Because there is no particular reasonable low-temperature mechanism, they will nitrate under the duress, whereas the nitrated compound can probably be unstable and more reactive than the original alkane.

3. What are Esters?

Esters are given as polar compounds, but they do not hold the capability to produce strong hydrogen bonds to each other because of the lack of hydrogen, bonded to oxygen. Resultantly, esters hold lower boiling points compared to the alcohols or acids with similar molecular weights. Often, esters hold a pleasant smell that is responsible for producing the characteristic smells of flowers, fruits, and so on.

4. What are Ethers?

This is given as a type of organic molecule where two aryl groups, alkyl groups, or an aryl and alkyl group are connected to both sides of an oxygen atom (ROR|). Based on the R groups, ethers may be either symmetrical or unsymmetrical. If both the R groups are the same, then the ether is symmetrical, whereas, if both are different, it is unsymmetrical. For example, dimethylether is given as the simplest ether.

5. Explain why Benzene is stable?

Benzene is stable because of the following reasons.

  • The benzene ring's high stability is due to delocalization electrons.

  • Huckel Rule (rule of 4n+2, where n = no. Whether it's a matter of pi-electrons or just no. The condition (of double bonds) is met. Natural aromatic compounds are quite stable.

  • When compared to pentagonal and other rings, the benzene ring is hexagonal, which makes it exceedingly stable.