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14.11: Acid Halides to Esters: Alcoholysis

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Organic Chemistry

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Acid Halides to Esters: Alcoholysis

14.11: Acid Halides to Esters: Alcoholysis

Alcoholysis is a nucleophilic acyl substitution reaction in which an alcohol functions as a nucleophile. Acid halides react with alcohol to produce esters. The mechanism proceeds in three steps:

  1. First, the alcohol acts as a nucleophile and attacks the acyl carbon to form a tetrahedral intermediate.
  2. Next, the carbonyl re-forms with the loss of a chloride ion.
  3. Lastly, the positively charged intermediate loses a proton to give an ester as the final product along with H3O+, making HCl an overall byproduct of the reaction.


Pyridine is used as a base to neutralize the acidic reaction mixture.

Alcoholysis of sulfonyl chlorides follows a similar pattern and forms sulfonic acid esters.



Acid Halides Esters Alcoholysis Nucleophilic Acyl Substitution Reaction Alcohol Alcohol As Nucleophile Mechanism Tetrahedral Intermediate Carbonyl Chloride Ion Ester As Final Product H3O+ Byproduct Pyridine Base Sulfonyl Chlorides Sulfonic Acid Esters

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