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ABSTRACT: The synthesis of 1-butanol with sodium bromide and sulfuric acid via nucleophilic
substitution (SN2 mechanism) yielded 1-bromobutane. This reaction required a catalyst to convert
the functional group -OH in butanol to a better leaving group in which sulfuric acid was used. For 1bromobutane to be synthesised, purification methods including refluxing, simple distillation and
separation was performed. This resulted in a product of slightly impure 1-bromobutane with a yield
of 76.49% (11.1 g). The possible impurities include 2-bromobutane, 1-bromobutane and dibutyl
Alkyl halides or more commonly known as haloalkanes are a group of compounds composed of
alkanes with one or more hydrogens substituted by a halogen atom i.e. bromine, chlorine, fluorine
and iodine. These chemical compounds have desirable physical properties which make them suitable
for a variety of industrial uses such as solvents and degreasing agents due to their good solubility in
organic liquids, non-flammable inhalation anaesthetic as they resist combustion [1] as well as
applications in herbicides and insecticides [2]. The versatility in haloalkane production is another
benefit as they can easily be synthesised from many reactions including radical chain reactions,
electrophilic additions of alkenes [3] (hydro halogenation) and nucleophilic substitution [4] with
alcohols [ref lecture], with the latter method focused on in this experiment.
Nucleophilic substitutions can happen via two different mechanisms; SN1 (unimolecular) and SN2
(bimolecular). SN1 reactions occur in two steps, first the leaving group dissociates from the carbon
forming the carbocation intermediate, this then reacts with the nucleophile to form the haloalkane.
To favour the SN1 pathway the carbocation intermediate needs to be stabilised by the presence of
other bonding carbons i.e. reactivity increases as more carbons are bonded (tertiary > secondary >
primary) [1].
On the other hand, SN2 reactions take place in only one step where the carbon has both the leaving
group and nucleophile partially bonded at the same time, this produces what is known as the
transition stage. SN2 reactions are more likely to happen when less carbons are bonded as steric
hindrance is decreased i.e. reactivity increases as less carbons are bonded (primary > secondary >
tertiary) [1].
Both SN1 and SN2 depend on good leaving groups (weakly basic) to occur. Consequently, these
reactions do not naturally take place with alcohols as the strongly basic -OH group is a poor leaving
group which prevents SN1 and SN2 reactions from producing alkyl bromide when heated with
bromide salts. However, the -OH group can still leave as a weakly basic water molecule if it is
activated in the presence of a strong acid [5]. This activation protonated the -OH group to H2O
which is now a good leaving group and can hence undergo nucleophilic substitution via the SN2
mechanism. SN2 is the favourable pathway because once the nucleophile displaces the protonated
hydroxyl the transition state produced is a primary carbon with little steric hindrance and is too
unstable for SN1 to occur.
The method outlined in the chapter Experiment 4: halogen compounds #1 (nucleophilic
substitution reactions) of the Organic Chemistry 1 Practical Manual was followed for this
experiment. No alterations were made to the outlined method.
● During reflux, there was a noticeable phase separation
● After reflux, the distillate that was collected from simple distillation was cloudy but gradually
became clear as distillation continued
● When this distillate was transferred to a separation funnel and added with water, again
there was a noticeable phase separation seen
PART A Preparation of 1-bromobutane
3.1 Physical Constants
Table 1. Physical characteristics of reactants and products
Molecular Weight (g/mol)
Refractive Index
Lit. value: 1.4398 at 20°C
1.433 at 22.1°C
Sulfuric acid
Sodium bromide
3.2 Quantities and physical description of reactants and products
Table 2. Quantities and description of reactants and products
Reactants Sodium bromide
18M Sulfuric acid
13.01 g
7.87 g
12 mL
10 mL
Physical description
White powder
Colourless liquid
Colourless/slightly yellow liquid
Clear/colourless liquid
11.1 g
Clear liquid
3.3 IR Spectras
3.31 IR Spectrum of 1-bromobutane
Figure 1. IR spectra of 1-bromobutane obtained from experiment
3.32 IR Spectrum of 1-butanol
Figure 2. IR spectra of 1-butanol obtained from demonstrators
3.4 GC Chromatogram of 1-bromobutane
Figure 3. GC chromatogram of 1-bromobutane from experiment
Table 3. Area and area percentage of products from GC chromatogram
Area Percentage
Dibutyl ether
% area = analyte peak area/ total sum of all peak areas x 100%
% of 1-bromobutane = 2256.17700/2564.91977 x 100%
= 87.96%
3.5 Theoretical yield
Molar mass 1-butanol = 4(12) + 10(1.008) + 16
= 74.08
Molar mass 1-bromobutane = 4(12) + 9(1.008) + 79.9
= 136.972
Molar mass NaBr = 22.99 + 79.90
= 102.89
Moles of 1-butanol = mass of 1-butanol used/molar mass 1-butanol
= 7.87/ 74.08
= 0.1062365011 mol
Moles of NaBr = mass of NaBr used/molar mass NaBr
= 13.01/ 102.89
= 0.1264457187 mol
Therefore, the limiting reagent is 1-butanol
0.1062365011 mol 1-butanol react with 0.1062365011 mol Br- gives 0.1062365011 mol
Hence moles 1-butanol = moles 1-bromobutane
Theoretical yield of 1-bromobutane = moles 1-butanol x molar mass 1-bromobutane
= 0.1062365011 x 136.972
= 14.55 g
3.6 Percentage of actual yield
Amount of 1-bromobutane obtained = 11.1 g
% yield = actual/theoretical x 100%
= 11.1/14.55 x 100%
= 76.3%
PART B SN1 and SN2 reactions of halohydrocarbons
3.7 Reaction with silver nitrate in ethanol
Table 4. Observation and reaction time for silver halide precipitation
Compound tested
Time for formation of Observation
silver halide precipitate
no reaction
no reaction
5 seconds
white precipitate formed
no reaction
benzyl chloride
2 minutes
white precipitate formed, after 12
minutes solution became more cloudy
30 seconds
white precipitate formed, after 13
minutes solution became more cloudy
3.8 reaction with sodium iodide in acetone
Table 5. Observation and reaction time for sodium bromide precipitation
Compound tested
Time for formation of Observation
3 minutes
solution almost immediately turned
yellow, after 3 minutes white
precipitate formed
no reaction
no reaction
solution turned light yellow and cloudy
after 2 minutes, no precipitate
no reaction
This experiment’s aim was to synthesise a primary haloalkane, 1-bromobutane from a
primary alcohol, 1-butanol through nucleophilic substitution SN2 [6]. The reaction of 1butanol with sodium bromide, sulfuric acid and water resulted in the production of 1bromobutane, sodium sulphate and water. To acquire a product with high purity/yield 1bromobutane had to undergo purification processes which included refluxing, distilling
and separating [4]. Sulfuric acid’s presence in this reaction was to protonate 1-butanol
to make it a better leaving group [3] as well as producing HBr, the nucleophile so that
once the oxonium ion left 1-bromobutane could form [7].
Noting that HBr is produced as a gas and hence is corrosive therefore a gas trap was
With most organic reactions unwanted by-products are unavoidable, in this case it is 1butanol, 2-bromobutane and dibutyl ether; 1-butanol could possibly be due to unreacted
starting material, 2-bromobutane’s presence is almost negligible and the dibutyl ether could
have easily co-distilled along with water and 1-bromobutane after refluxing, as a
consequence of this 1-bromobutane must be extracted by work-up with water in order to
dissolve as much 1-butanol as possible, following this is the addition of cold (to avoid
charring of organic layer) sulfuric acid and sodium hydroxide (removes sulfuric acid that
clings to side of separating funnel). Finally, 1-bromobutane is dried using anhydrous calcium
chloride and distilled.
To confirm the purity of 1-bromobutane several tests were carried out [8], this included IR
spectroscopy, RI indexing [9] and GC chromatography. The absence of O-H and C-O
stretches in graph 1 indicate that 1-butanol was successfully converted to 1-bromobutane,
as further highlighted with the C-Br stretch around the 700 cm-1 and 1000 cm-1 respectively.
The comparison of graph 1 and 2 clearly shows the presence and absence of these bonds,
therefore the aim of this experiment was achieved.
The GC chromatogram analysis from table three further confirms the successful conversion
of 1-bromobutane as its retention time and peak is the highest. This once again illustrates a
high yield with only a small presence of 1-butanol, 2-bromobutane and dibutyl ether. In this
case, the percentage of 1-bromobutane was calculated to be 87.96%.
Finally, the similarities between the RI values obtained versus the literature value solidifies
the presence of 1-bromobutane’s high yield. With the value obtained being 1.433 at 22.1°C
and literature value being 1.4398 at 20°C, there is only a mere difference of 0.0068, it can
be concluded that 1-bromobutane was successfully synthesised from 1-butanol via SN2
mechanism [6].
Loss of yield in this experiment was possibly from the unreacted starting material which
then impacted the equilibrium as it could not completely react to form 1-bromobutane. In
addition to this further loss can be accounted for during the purification and isolation
processes. Improvements to this experiment include using lower temperatures during
refluxing to keep elimination side reactions at a minimal as well as slower addition of acid.
In conclusion, based on the results from IR, GC chromatography and RI the aim of this
experiment, to synthesise 1-bromobutane from 1-butanol via SN2 mechanism, is achieved.
The data collected supports that the 1-bromobutane obtained contains little to no impurity.
From table four only 2-chloro-2-methylpropane, 3-chloropropene and benzyl chloride react
to form silver halide precipitate with silver nitrate in ethanol. This reaction favoured the SN1
mechanism hence 1-chlorobutane (forms primary carbocation), 2-chlorobutane (forms
secondary carbocation therefore takes longer than the timed 20 minutes to react) and
chlorobenzene (has benzene ring attached hence cannot undergo SN1 or SN2 due to very
unstable carbocation) did not react since they form unstable carbocation intermediates.
Their reaction times are different as some occur faster than others i.e. 2-chloro-2methypropane forms very stable tertiary carbocation in comparison to 3-chloropropene
which forms a secondary carbocation and benzyl chloride is only stabilised by its resonance
structure. Thus, their respective reaction times are in this order.
From table five only 1-bromobutane reacted with sodium iodide in acetone to form a
sodium bromide precipitate. This is due to the reaction conditions favouring the SN2
pathway. 1-bromobutane reacts to form a minimally steric hindered primary carbocation
during the transition stage whilst the other compounds form much more steric hindered
carbocations i.e. 2-bromobutane forms secondary carbocation hence reaction time
increased, 2-bromo-2-methylpropane forms extremely steric hindered tertiary carbocation
and bromobenzene is heavily substituted and hindered by its benzene ring.
The aim of synthesising 1-bromobutane from 1-butanol via an SN2 reaction [5] is
achieved. This synthesis process is carried out with two reagents heated alongside the
primary alcohol thus producing an aqueous solution of water and alko-halide with a
good yield of 87.96% and little to no impurities as seen from the results and analysis of
GC chromatography.
1. Ung, A. 2017, ‘Halohydrocarbons’, UTS Online Subject 65202, lecture notes, UTS,
Sydney, viewed 15 May 2017, < https://online.uts.edu.au/bbcswebdav/pid-1581698dt-content-rid-9011623_1/courses/65202-2017-AUTUMN-CITY/Lec5%20halogen%20compounds-2hr-17.pdf>.
2. ChemgaCrew 2016, Introduction to the chemistry of alkyl halides, Berlin, viewed 14
3. Chemguide 2000, The Nucleophilic Substitution Reactions Between Halogenalkanes
4. Anderson, M.M. 1987, ‘Two working models for the SN2 mechanism’, J. Chem. Educ.,
vol. 64, no. 12, pp. 1023.
5. Microscale Synthesis of 1-Bromobutane n.d., viewed 14 May 2017,
6. Preparation of 1-bromobutane via nucleophilic substitution n.d., viewed 14 May
7. Experiment 7: Preparation of 1-bromobutane n.d., viewed 16 May 2017,
8. Bonner, O.D. & Choi, Y.S. 1975, ‘A spectroscopic investigation of the structure of
alcohol-water solutions’, Journal of solution Chemistry, vol. 4, no. 5, pp. 457-469.
9. Smith, B.C. 2015, Infrared Spectral Interpretation: A Systematic Approach, 2nd edn,
Taylor & Francis, U.K.
1. Mechanisms of by-products
A) Alkenes via E2 elimination, e.g. 1-butene
B) Dibutyl ether
2. Dibutyl ether formed co-distills along with water and 1-bromobutane after reflux,
hence remains in upper layer as organic by-products. Alkenes specifically 1-butene, a
gas is lost during reflux and the work-up processes.
4. A) Silver halide precipitate (silver chloride)
B) Sodium bromide precipitate
5. Pure 1-butanol
Pure 1-bromobutane
6. Sample spectra:
From above purity/yield of 1-bromobutane is quite high since there is no presence of
1-butanol detected (no O-H stretch on spectra band 3600-3300 cm-1)
To distinguish if O-H stretch is due to water or alcohol look for the scissoring of two
O-H bonds at 1630 cm-1, this vibration at this band is unique to water. Another note
is the presence of O-H bends and C-O stretch are more likely to be alcohols rather
than water.
7. Silver nitrate in ethanol
1-chlorobutane > 2-chlorobutane > 2-chloro-2-methylpropane
SN1 reactions occur via two steps; first the slow C-X bond dissociates to form a
carbocation intermediate; followed by the fast step forming the C-Nucleophile bond.
There is a formation of a carbocation hence the rate of the reaction will depend on
the stability of the carbocation. Tertiary being the most stable and hence fastest
followed by secondary and finally primary carbocation. This is reflected in the
observed results with 2-chloro-2-methylpropane being the most reactive/fastest
since it forms a tertiary carbocation as the C-Cl bond dissociates. Following this
mechanism, it would make sense that the next substrate to react would be 2-
chlorobutane then 1-chlorobutane (primary carbocation is unstable and therefore
rearranges to a more stable carbocation to undergo the reaction).
8. Sodium iodide in acetone
2-bromo-2-methylpropane > 2-bromobutane > 1-bromobutane
SN2 reactions occur via single step; the electrophilic carbon centre opposite to the leaving
group is attacked (back-side attack, therefore inversion of stereochemistry i.e. Walden
inversion) by the incoming nucleophile. This mechanism happens through a back-side attack
thus the more ‘crowded’ the leaving group is the slower the reaction due to steric
hindrance. Because of this the rate of the reaction follows primary > secondary > tertiary.
Looking at the observed results 1-bromobutane occurred the fastest since the Br- ion was
attached to a primary carbon hence the back-side attack could occur quite easily whereas
the Br- ions in 2-bromobutane and 2-bromo-2-methylpropane were respectively secondary
and tertiary.
9. There was a difference in reactivity between 1-chlorobutane and 3-chlropropene,
this is due to one being a haloalkane and the other a haloalkene.
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