Chapter 11: Arenes
Substituent Effects in Electrophilic Substitution
When a substituent is already present in the benzene ring, electrophilic substitution will be affected in two ways:
- Position of the next substituent
- Reactivity of the substitution
A benzene ring with a substituent attached can react during electrophilic substitution to give three products:
Isomers with substitution at the 6th site are the same as those substituted at the 2ⁿᵈ site.The three isomers are usually not formed in equal amounts. The ratio of the products formed is usually influenced by the substituent already present in the ring.
In essence, 2,4-directing substituent groups will direct the next substituent to the 2ⁿᵈ and 4ᵗʰ sites. Majority of the products will hence be 2 and 4-substituted products. The same can be said for 3-directing substituent groups.
Substituents which cause the benzene ring to be more reactive are known as activating groups while substituents which cause the benzene ring to be less reactive are known as deactivating groups.
Electron donating groups are usually activating groups, as they increase the electron density of the π benzene ring, thus enhancing the availability of electrons about the ring and vice versa for electron-withdrawing groups.
Generally, activating groups are 2,4-directing while deactivating are 3-directing. However, it is best to reference this table provided in the data booklet, as there are exceptions such as halogens. Halogens are deactivating but 2,4-directing.
8 The orientating effect of groups in aromatic substitution reactions
The position of the incoming group, E, is determined by the nature of the group, G, already bonded to the ring , and not by the nature of the incoming group E.
Tip: When drawing the mechanism for electrophilic substitution of an already subsitutent ring, the right major products must be drawn otherwise you might be penalised.
Let’s look at a worked example below:
Worked Example 2:
Ethylbenzene can react with bromine in two ways, depending on the conditions of the reactions.
In the boxes provided, draw the structure of the major product, assuming monobromination, and state the mechanism that ethylbenzene undergoes for each reaction.
For Reaction A, the reagents and conditions suggest that ethylbenzene will undergo Electrophilic Substitution (Friedel-Craft Alkylation), and since there is the presence of -CH₂CH₃ electron-donating alkyl group attached to the benzene ring, it is 2,4 directing. Thus, the -Br will attach to the benzene at either position 2 or 4 from the alkyl position.
As for Reaction B, the reagents and conditions suggest that ethylbenzene will undergo Free Radical Substitution (FRS), where the Br does not attach directly to the benzene ring, but replaces a H atom on the alkyl group -CH₂CH₃.
Sometimes reactions can take place at a lower temperature as well, due to the substituent in the ring being activating. An example learnt in this chapter is the electrophilic substitution of ethyl benzene.
Reagents and conditions
Concentrated HNO₃, concentrated H₂SO₄, 30℃
A pale yellow liquid with the smell of almonds is produced
|Reagents and conditions|
|Concentrated HNO₃, concentrated H₂SO₄, 30℃|
|A pale yellow liquid with the smell of almonds is produced|
Nitration of benzene would involve the same reagents, but at a higher temperature of typically 55℃. However, nitration of methylbenzene is more reactive due to the electron donating methyl group already present in the ring. It increases the electron density of the ring, thus making methylbenzene more susceptible to electrophilic attack.
Methylbenzene (as well as other alkyl benzenes) is able to undergo 2 other reactions, mainly free radical substitution of the side chain as well as side chain oxidation.
The -CH₃ substituent in methylbenzene (or any corresponding alkyl substituent) shows reaction expected of any alkyl group. Applying the concepts of what you have previously learned in the chapter of alkane, the mechanisms of free radical substitution will similarly apply to the side chain. Let’s look at Worked Example 3 to best illustrate this.
Worked Example 3:
Describe the mechanism for the reaction between methylbenzene and chlorine in the presence of UV light
Mechanism: Free Radical Substitution
Step 1 - Initiation
Step 2 - Propagation
The (a) and (b) are repeated continuously
Step 3 - Termination
The second reaction that alkyl benzenes can undergo is a side chain oxidation reaction. It is important to note that any benzene derivative with an alkyl side chain (irregardless of how long the alkyl side chain is) will produce the same product, benzoic acid.
- REAGENTS AND CONDITIONS: KMnO₄ (aq), H₂SO₄ (aq), heat
- Side chain is destroyed, forming carbon dioxide and water
Reminder to students: Alkyl benzenes WITHOUT a benzylic H (no H atom bonded to the C atom that is directly bonded to the benzene ring) do not undergo oxidation when heated with acidified KMnO₄. This can be illustrated with the following molecule.