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Acyloin condensation

Lianyungang Klinechem Co.,Ltd | Updated: Nov 28, 2018


The reaction is most successful when R is aliphatic and inert. The reaction is performed in aprotic solvents with a high boiling point, such as benzene and toluene in an oxygen free atmosphere of nitrogen (as even traces of oxygen interfere with the reaction path and reduce the yield). The use of protic solvents results in the Bouveault-Blanc reduction of the separate esters rather than condensation. Depending on ring size and steric properties, but independent from high dilution, the acyloin condensation of diesters favours intramolecular cyclisation over intermolecular polymerisation. To account for such cyclisation, it is suggested that the ends, where ester groups are present, are adsorbed, albeit weakly, at nearby sites on the sodium metal. Thus, the reactive ends are not available for polymerisation, thereby decreasing competition for the cyclisation process. Diesters possessing 10 or more carbons undergo cyclisation very easily.


The mechanism consists of four steps:

(1) Oxidative ionization of two sodium atoms on the double bond of two ester molecules.

(2) Free radical coupling between two molecules of the homolytic ester derivative (A Wurtz type coupling). Alkoxy-eliminations in both sides occur, producing a 1,2-diketone.

(3) Oxidative ionization of two sodium atoms on both diketone double bonds. The sodium enodiolate is formed.

(4) Neutralization with water to form the enodiol, which tautomerizes to acyloin.[4]




The method according to Rühlmann[5] employs trimethylchlorosilane as a trapping reagent; by this, competing reactions are efficiently subdued. Generally, yields increase considerably. The hydrolytic cleavage of the silylether gives the acyloin. To achieve a mild cleavage methanol can be used in several cases.


Usually toluene, dioxane, tetrahydrofuran or acyclic dialkylethers are employed as solvents. Advantageously also N-methyl-morpholine has been used. It allowed in some cases a successful reaction, in which otherwise the reaction failed in less polar media.


Jump up^ Bouveault, L.; Locquin, R. (1905). "Action du sodium sur les éthers des acides monobasiques à fonction simple de la série grasse" [Effect of sodium on the ethers of single-function monobasic acids of the fatty series]. Compt. Rend. (in French). 140: 1593–1595.

Jump up^ Finley, K. T. (1964). "The Acyloin Condensation as a Cyclization Method". Chem. Rev. 64 (5): 573–589. doi:10.1021/cr60231a004.

Jump up^ Bloomfield, J. J.; Owsley, D. C.; Nelke, J. M. Org. React. 1976, 23.

Jump up^ Acyloin condensation

Jump up^ Rühlmann K. (1971). "Die Umsetzung von Carbonsäureestern mit Natrium in Gegenwart von Trimethylchlorsilan" [Reaction of carboxylic acid esters with sodium in the presence of trimethylchlorosilane]. Synthesis (in German). 1971 (5): 236–253. doi:10.1055/s-1971-21707.

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