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Electrophilic Fragrant Substitution | ChemTalk

Core Ideas

On this article, you’ll study concerning the fundamentals of electrophilic fragrant substitution, necessary mechanisms, and regioselectivity.

Matters Lined in Different Articles

What’s an Electrophilic Fragrant Substitution?

Regardless of the outstanding stability of fragrant compounds, like benzene, natural chemists have discovered methods of chemically altering their construction. In synthesis, these alterations sometimes occur by way of substitution reactions, the place a brand new chemical group replaces a hydrogen on the fragrant ring. Importantly, these reactions preserve the cyclic motion of electrons in fragrant compounds, maintaining their chemical stability.

In electrophilic fragrant substitution (EAS), an electrophilic group provides to the fragrant ring, reminiscent of a hydrocarbon, nitrate, or sulfate. EAS has a counterpart involving nucleophiles, appropriately referred to as nucleophilic fragrant substitution (NAS). EAS and NAS observe comparable mechanisms, however there exist distinctive quirks within the EAS response not shared in NAS.

electrophilic aromatic substitution reaction plus nas
Fragrant substitution with a nucleophile (NAS) (high) and with an electrophile (EAS) (backside)

Electrophilic Fragrant Substitution Mechanism

Step one in electrophilic substitution reactions includes a pair of pi electrons from the fragrant ring attacking an electrophile. This quickly breaks the aromaticity of the ring and locations a optimistic cost on the carbon hooked up to the electrophile. Then, a generic base deprotonates the optimistic carbon, which frees an electron pair. Lastly, this electron pair types a pi bond inside the carbon cyclic construction, which turns into fragrant once more.

electrophilic aromatic substitution generic mechanism

Importantly, the compound’s aromaticity should stop throughout EAS quickly however returns to type the ultimate product. Any chemical alteration to an fragrant construction should usually contain aromaticity returning when the response completes. That is as a result of outstanding stability of fragrant compounds. For a response to fully rework an fragrant construction right into a non-aromatic one, such a response would probably be thermodynamically unfavorable with out drastic environmental circumstances or remarkably efficient catalysts. 

Electrophilic Fragrant Substitution Examples

Friedel-Crafts Alkylation

To position a hydrocarbon onto an fragrant ring, a specific EAS response referred to as Friedel-Crafts Alkylation should happen. This response includes two necessary reactants, an alkyl halide and a Lewis acid, generally AlCl3. The Lewis acid first removes the halogen, leaving a carbocation. The carbocation then serves because the electrophile in EAS.

electrophilic aromatic substitution friedel crafts alkylation
Friedel-Crafts Alkylation: general response (high), electrophile formation (center), EAS mechanism (backside)

Chemists use the time period “Friedel-Crafts Acylation” to explain the same response involving an acid halide as an alternative of an alkyl halide.

electrophilic aromatic substitution friedel crafts acylation


To halogenate an fragrant ring, you additionally want a Lewis acid, sometimes FeCl3 or FeBr3, in addition to a diatomic halogen. The Lewis acid binds to the halogen, which makes it extra electrophilic. Then, the electrophilic halogen could carry out EAS with an fragrant substance. Because of the intricacy of the halogen-Lewis acid intermediate, an advanced sequence of rearrangements should happen in the course of the EAS.

Halogenation: general response (high), electrophile formation (center), EAS mechanism (backside)


To position a nitro group onto an fragrant ring, a particular compound referred to as a nitronium ion which acts as an electrophile in electrophilic fragrant substitution. To generate a nitronium ion, nitric acid should be protonated by another acid, which destabilizes its construction, ensuing within the launch of a hydroxy group. Usually, sulfuric acid serves because the secondary acid as a result of its conjugate base, dihydrogen sulfate, isn’t very nucleophilic, and thus wouldn’t compete with the nitronium to react with the fragrant ring.

eas nitration
Nitration: general response (high), electrophile formation (center), EAS mechanism (backside)


Following the same response, sulfonation includes reacting sulfuric acid with itself to generate electrophilic hydrogen sulfur trioxide. This electrophilic species can then carry out EAS, which leads to a negatively charged oxygen after deprotonating the fragrant ring. Since unreacted sulfuric acid exists within the response combination, this oxygen turns into protonated.

eas sulfonation
Sulfonation: general response (high), electrophile formation (center), EAS mechanism (backside)

Ipso Substitution

Generally, fairly than changing a hydrogen on the fragrant ring, an attacking electrophile as an alternative replaces one other substituent. Chemists name this “ipso-substitution” or “ipso-attack”. As an example, when performing nitration on salicylic acid, the incoming nitronium ion reacts with the carbon that has the carboxylic acid. This releases the carboxyl group from the ring as carbon dioxide.

eas ipso substitution

Electrophilic Fragrant Substitution Regioselectivity

Curiously, if an fragrant compound already has substituents after which performs EAS, the electrophile could also be extra more likely to react with sure websites on the ring than others. This tendency of sure areas of a molecule being extra more likely to react than others known as regioselectivity. 

The electron affinity of the substituents has probably the most affect over regioselectivity in fragrant electrophilic substitution. Particularly, in monosubstituted benzene, electron-withdrawing teams are referred to as meta administrators. Which means that electrophiles have increased reactivity with carbons two spots away from the substituent. Conversely, electron-donating teams are referred to as para/ortho administrators. Which means that electrophiles have increased reactivity with carbons adjoining (ortho) or reverse (para) the substituent. These relationships between substituents and regioselectivity inform synthesis response pathways involving fragrant substances.

electrophilic aromatic substitution regioselectivity, ortho para and meta directors
Notice: “W” signifies an electron-withdrawing group and “D” signifies an electron-donating group.

The explanation why sure teams make sure carbons extra reactive to electrophiles comes from resonance. Let’s take a more in-depth look.

Meta Administrators

As talked about earlier than, electron-withdrawing teams, reminiscent of carbonyls, halides, and nitro teams, direct electrophiles to bond with meta carbons. This comes from partial optimistic fees positioned on the carbons ortho and para to the withdrawing group, coming from the molecule’s resonance types. In consequence, the non-meta carbons electrostatically repulse electrophiles, making meta carbons comparatively extra reactive in EAS. Nonetheless, chemists use the time period “deactivating group” to explain these meta administrators, as a result of benzene with an electron-withdrawing group has considerably much less general reactivity than unsubstituted benzene, attributable to reducing electron density on the ring construction.

electrophilic aromatic substitution meta directors

Para/Ortho Administrators

Electron donating teams, reminiscent of hydrocarbons, alcohols, acetates, and aminos, direct electrophiles to bond to ortho and para carbons. This comes from partial damaging fees positioned on the carbons ortho and para to the donating group, coming from the molecule’s resonance types. In consequence, ortho and para teams electrostatically entice electrophiles. Moreover, chemists name donating teams “activating teams” as a result of they add electron density to the fragrant ring, making it extra reactive than unsubstituted benzene towards electrophiles.

electrophilic aromatic substitution ortho and para directors

Given an electron donating group, an electrophile could preferentially react with the para carbon over the ortho carbons or vice versa. This degree of regioselectivity depends upon the sterics of the donating group. If the group is massive and ponderous, electrophiles preferentially react with the para carbon as a result of the majority of the donating group sterically hinders an incoming molecule from interacting with the adjoining ortho carbons. 

electrophilic aromatic substitution para director
A tertbutyl group is an instance of a cumbersome electron-donating group.

Conversely, if the group is small with little steric impact, electrophiles usually tend to carry out a substitution on the ortho carbons as a result of benzenes have two ortho carbons and just one para carbon. Particularly, the electrophile would have an equal probability of reacting with the 2 ortho carbons and one para carbon, so the product combine would contain 67% ortho product and 33% para product.

ortho director electrophilic aromatic substitution
An alcohol is an instance of a small electron-donating group.


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