Friedel-Crafts Reaction

What is a Friedel-Crafts Reaction?

A Friedel-Crafts reaction is an organic coupling reaction involving an electrophilic aromatic substitution that is used for the attachment of substituents to aromatic rings. The two primary types of Friedel-Crafts reactions are the alkylation and acylation reactions. These reactions were developed in the year 1877 by the French chemist Charles Friedel and the American chemist James Crafts.

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Friedel-Crafts Reaction

Friedel-Crafts Acylation

An illustration describing both the Friedel-Crafts reactions undergone by benzene is provided below.

Friedel-Crafts Reaction

It can be noted that both these reactions involve the replacement of a hydrogen atom (initially attached to the aromatic ring) with an electrophile. Aluminium trichloride (AlCl3) is often used as a catalyst in Friedel-Crafts reactions since it acts as a Lewis acid and coordinates with the halogens, generating an electrophile in the process.

Friedel-Crafts Alkylation

Friedel-Crafts Alkylation refers to the replacement of an aromatic proton with an alkyl group. This is done through an electrophilic attack on the aromatic ring with the help of a carbocation. The Friedel-Crafts alkylation reaction is a method of generating alkylbenzenes by using alkyl halides as reactants.

The Friedel-Crafts alkylation reaction of benzene is illustrated below.

Friedel-Crafts Alkylation

A Lewis acid catalyst such as FeCl3 or AlCl3 is employed in this reaction in order to form a carbocation by facilitating the removal of the halide. The resulting carbocation undergoes a rearrangement before proceeding with the alkylation reaction.


The Friedel-Crafts alkylation reaction proceeds via a three-step mechanism.

Step 1

The Lewis acid catalyst (AlCl3) undergoes reaction with the alkyl halide, resulting in the formation of an electrophilic carbocation.

Step 2

The carbocation proceeds to attack the aromatic ring, forming a cyclohexadienyl cation as an intermediate. The aromaticity of the arene is temporarily lost due to the breakage of the carbon-carbon double bond.

Step 3

The deprotonation of the intermediate leads to the reformation of the carbon-carbon double bond, restoring aromaticity to the compound. This proton goes on to form hydrochloric acid, regenerating the AlCl3 catalyst.

Friedel-Crafts Alkylation Reaction Mechanism

An illustration describing the mechanism of the Friedel-Crafts alkylation reaction is provided above.

Friedel-Crafts Alkylation

What are the Limitations of the Friedel-Crafts Alkylation Reaction?

Some important limitations of Friedel-Crafts alkylation are listed below.

  • Since the carbocations formed by aryl and vinyl halides are extremely unstable, they cannot be used in this reaction.
  • The presence of a deactivating group on the aromatic ring (such as an NH2 group) can lead to the deactivation of the catalyst due to the formation of complexes.
  • An excess of the aromatic compound must be used in these reactions in order to avoid polyalkylation (addition of more than one alkyl group to the aromatic compound).
  • Aromatic compounds that are less reactive than mono-halobenzenes do not participate in the Friedel-Crafts alkylation reaction.

It is important to note that this reaction is prone to carbocation rearrangements, as is the case with any reaction involving carbocations.

Friedel-Crafts Acylation

The Friedel-Crafts acylation reaction involves the addition of an acyl group to an aromatic ring. Typically, this is done by employing an acid chloride (R-(C=O)-Cl) and a Lewis acid catalyst such as AlCl3. In a Friedel-Crafts acylation reaction, the aromatic ring is transformed into a ketone. The reaction between benzene and an acyl chloride under these conditions is illustrated below.

Friedel-Crafts Acylation

An acid anhydride can be used as an alternative to the acyl halide in Friedel-Crafts acylations. The halogen belonging to the acyl halide forms a complex with the Lewis acid, generating a highly electrophilic acylium ion, which has a general formula of RCO+ and is stabilized by resonance.


Friedel-Crafts acylations proceed through a four-step mechanism.

Step 1

A reaction occurs between the Lewis acid catalyst (AlCl3) and the acyl halide. A complex is formed and the acyl halide loses a halide ion, forming an acylium ion which is stabilized by resonance.

Friedel-Crafts Acylation Mechanism Step 1

Step 2

The acylium ion (RCO+) goes on to execute an electrophilic attack on the aromatic ring. The aromaticity of the ring is temporarily lost as a complex is formed.

Friedel-Crafts Acylation Mechanism Step 2

Step 3

The intermediate complex is now deprotonated, restoring the aromaticity to the ring. This proton attaches itself to a chloride ion (from the complexed Lewis acid), forming HCl. The AlCl3 catalyst is now regenerated.

Friedel-Crafts Acylation Mechanism Step 3

Thus, the required acyl benzene product is obtained via the Friedel-Crafts acylation reaction.


Despite overcoming some limitations of the related alkylation reaction (such as carbocation rearrangement and polyalkylation), the Friedel-Crafts acylation reaction has a few shortcomings.

  • The acylation reaction only yields ketones. This is because formyl chloride (H(C=O)Cl) decomposes into CO and HCl when exposed to these conditions.
  • The aromatic compound cannot participate in this reaction if it is less reactive than a mono-halobenzene.
  • Aryl amines cannot be used in this reaction because they form highly unreactive complexes with the Lewis acid catalyst.

The acylations can take place on the nitrogen or oxygen atoms when amine or alcohols are used. Thus, the reaction details, mechanisms, and limitations of both Friedel-Crafts reactions are briefly discussed.

Frequently Asked Questions – FAQs


What is Friedel Craft reaction with example?

An alkyl group can be added by an electrophillic aromatic substitution reaction called the Friedel-Crafts alkylation reaction to a benzene molecule. The addition of a methyl group to a benzene ring is one example. To form a nonaromatic carrbocation, the π electron of benzene ring attack on the electrophile.


What are the advantages of Friedel Crafts acylation?

Friedel Crafts Acylation have several advantages over Friedel Craft Alkylation. These advantages include a better control over the reaction products and also the acylium cation is stabilized by resonance so no chances of rearrangement. Using Clemmensen reduction, the ketones made can be reduced to alkyl groups.


Is Friedel Crafts alkylation reversible?

It was hypothesized that Friedel-Crafts alkylation was reversible. Alkyl groups in the presence of protons or other Lewis acid are extracted in a retro-Friedel-Crafts reaction or Friedel-Crafts dealkylation. However, 1,3,5-triethylbenzene with all alkyl groups as a meta substituent is the actual reaction product.


What is alkylation of benzene?

Alkylation means replacing something with an alkyl group – in this case, a hydrogen on benzene ring.  A hydrogen of benzene ring is substituted by a group such as methyl or ethyl, and so on. In the presence of aluminium chloride as a catalyst, Benzene is treated with chloroalkane.


How is a Lewis acid used in Friedel Crafts acylation?

One of the most common reactions in aromatic chemistry used in the preparation of aryl ketones is the Friedel-Crafts acylation reaction. Using stoichiometric amounts of Lewis acid results in the formation of a complex between the aryl ketone formed and the Lewis acid at the end of the reaction.

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  1. Much helpful…. thanks a lot 😊

  2. in this reaction what is RDS step?

  3. thanks for the important information for study
    really its helpful for the easy understand the topic of chemistry