Wurtz Reaction

Wurtz Reaction

Named After:

Charles-Adolphe Wurtz, known also for the discovery of aldol reaction, is a french chemist who published the wurtz reaction in 1855.

What is wurtz reaction?

Wurtz reaction is a reaction in which to obtain a higher order alkane we react two alkyl halides with sodium in a solution of dry ether.

The reaction involving aryl halides is termed as the wurtz fittig reaction.

Wurtz Reaction Equation

2 R–X + 2 Na → R–R + 2 Na+ X

Reaction Mechanism

  • R–X + M → R• + M+ X
  • R• + M → R M+
  • R M+ + R–X → R–R + M+ X


  • The wurtz reaction is limited to the synthesis of symmetric alkanes.
  • This reaction cannot be used to make Methane.
  • The reaction involves free radical species and hence has a side reaction which produces an alkene.
  • When taking two dissimilar alkyl halides are the reactants, the product is a mixture of alkanes that is difficult to separate by fractional distillation. This is because the difference between their boiling points are typically very small.
  • This method fails in case of tertiary halides.

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Practise This Question

When P reacts with caustic soda, the products are PH3 and NaH2PO2. This reaction is an example of