Homologous Series: Halogenoalkanes – A Level Chemistry Revision

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Halogenoalkanes are alkanes in which one or more hydrogen atoms have been substituted by a halogen atom (F, Cl, Br or I). The prefixes fluoro-, chloro-, bromo- and iodo- are used to represent the halogens within the nomenclature of halogenoalkanes.

Functional GroupGeneral Formula
R – XCnH2n+1X (X = F, Cl, Br or I)

Chemical Properties

Halogenoalkanes are more reactive than alkanes. Iodoalkanes are the most reactive because of the relatively small bond enthalpy of the C-I

Halogenoalkanes can be identified by the addition of silver nitrate and nitric acid. A silver halide, AgX, precipitate will form, the colour of which will indicate the halogen which is present (Cl = white, Br = cream, I = yellow). No precipitate will form when a fluoroalkane is reacted with silver nitrate and nitric acid.

Reactions of halogenoalkanes include:

  • Nucleophilic Substitution
    Nucleophiles (electron-pair donors) can attack the slightly positively charged carbon atom of the polar C-X bonds within halogenoalkanes. The products of the reaction depend on the nucleophile.
    halogenoalkane + OH β†’ alcohol + X
    halogenoalkane + CN β†’ nitrile + X
    halogenoalkane + NH3 β†’ amine + NH4X
  • Under anhydrous conditions, hydroxide ions act as a base and remove a hydrogen ion from the halogenoalkane. A double bond forms and the halogen atom is eliminated.
    halogenoalkane + OH β†’ alkene + water + X

Other Information

  • The C-X bond in halogenoalkanes is polar due to the highly electronegative halogen atom drawing electron density towards that side of the covalent bond.
  • Halogenoalkanes are used as refrigerants, solvents and in the production of pharmaceutical compounds.
  • The use of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) is restricted due to their damaging effect on the ozone layer.

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