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The Chemical Educator

ISSN: 1430-4171 (electronic version)

Table of Contents

Abstract Volume 21 (2016) pp 223-225

Investigating Steric Effects in SN2 Substitution Reactions: Reactions of Acetaminophen with Alkyl Halides

Bruce A. Hathaway*, Darby J. Ball and Maddie K. McAllister

Department of Chemistry, Physics and Mathematics, LeTourneau University, PO Box 7001, Longview, TX, 75607,
Received September 2, 2016. Accepted October 5, 2016.

Published: 31 October 2016

Abstract. The experimental procedure for the preparation of phenacetin, by the reaction of acetaminophen with ethyl iodide, has been modified to use several different alkyl halides, and to allow for easier isolation of the substitution products. The isolated student yields of substitution products are 65–75% for normal primary alkyl bromides, 40–50% for 2-bromopropane and 2-bromobutane, and no isolated product using t-butyl chloride. These results are what might be expected for an SN2 reaction, due to increasing steric hindrance to backside attack. Isobutyl bromide and cyclohexyl bromide each yield lower amounts of substitution products (10–15% and 3–4%, respectively) than might be expected, which allows students to consider subtler factors which can influence the yield of product.

Key Words: Laboratories and Demonstrations; organic chemistry

(*) Corresponding author. (E-mail:

Article in PDF format (125 KB) HTML format

Supporting Materials:

One PDF file is available, a student handout for Alkylation of Acetaminophen. (136 KB)


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