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Chemistry LibreTexts Oxymercuration

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  • Introduction

    Carbocation rearrangement is a process in which the carbocation intermediate can form a more stable ion. With carbocation rearrangement, the reaction would not be able to hydrate quickly under mild conditions and be produced in high yields. This reaction is very fast and proceeds with 90% yield.

    This reaction involves a mercury acting as a reagent attacking the alkene double bond to form a Mercurinium Ion Bridge. A water molecule will then attack the most substituted carbon to open the mercurium ion bridge, followed by proton transfer to solvent water molecule.

    The organomercury intermediate is then reduced by sodium borohydride - the mechanism for this final step is beyond the scope of our discussion here. Notice that overall, the oxymercuration - demercuration mechanism follows Markovnikov's Regioselectivity with the OH group is attached to the most substituted carbon and the H is attach to the least substituted carbon. The reaction is useful, however, because strong acids are not required, and carbocation rearrangements are avoided because no discreet carbocation intermediate forms.


    1. Vollhardt, K. Peter C. Organic chemistry structure and function. New York: W.H. Freeman, 2007.
    2. Smith, Michael B., and Jerry March. March's Advanced Organic Chemistry Reactions, Mechanisms, and Structure (March's Advanced Organic Chemistry). New York: Wiley-Interscience, 2007 2007.
    3. Roderic P. Quirk , Robert E. Lea, Reductive demercuration of hex-5-enyl-1-mercuric bromide by metal hydrides. Rearrangement, isotope effects, and mechanism, J. Am. Chem. Soc., 1976, 98 (19), pp 5973–5978.

    Some Practice Problems

    What are the end products of these reactants?


    The end product to these practice problems are pretty much very similar. First, you locate where the double bond is on the reactant side. Then, you look at what substituents are attached to each side of the double bond and add the OH group to the more substituent side and the hydrogen on the less substituent side.




    In each case, predict the product(s) of these reactants of oxymercuration.


    Propose the alkene that was the reactant for each of these products of oxymercuration.





    Further Reading

    MasterOrganicChemistry (video)

    Oxymercuration of alkenes


    Oxymercuration Reaction

    Carey 5th Ed Online




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