15.11: α-Bromination of Carboxylic Acids: Hell–Volhard–Zelinski Reaction
The method to achieve α-brominated carboxylic acids using a mixture of phosphorus tribromide and bromine is known as the Hell–Volhard–Zelinski reaction. The reaction is catalyzed by phosphorus tribromide, which can be used directly or produced in situ from red phosphorus and bromine. The mechanism comprises PBr3 catalyzed conversion of acid to acid bromide and hydrogen bromide. The acid bromide enolizes to its enol form in the presence of HBr. The nucleophilic enol attacks the bromine molecule to give an α-bromo acid bromide. The resulting molecule, upon subsequent hydrolysis, yields the desired α-bromo acid.