Doc Brown's Advanced A Level Chemistry

Advanced A Level Chemistry

Kinetics-Rates Part 7

Selected Case Studies of a variety of chemical reactions and their rate expressions

7.6 Acid catalyzed iodination of propanone

CH3COCH3(aq) + I2(aq) ==> CH3COCH2I(aq) + HI(aq) 

Advanced A Level Kinetics Index

Case study 4.6 Acid catalyzed iodination of propanone

Explanation and derivation of orders of reactants and how to write the rate expression


  • Propanone readily forms 1–iodopropanone on reaction with acidified iodine solution, as do all 2–ones ('methyl ketones') I assume?

    • CH3COCH3(aq) + I2(aq) ==> CH3COCH2I(aq) + H+(aq) + I(aq) 

  • However, the rate expression is: rate = k2[CH3COCH3(aq)][H+(aq)]

    • and iodine is not in the rate expression but one of the products is!

    • Therefore the reaction is zero order for iodine and it also zero order for bromine in the similar bromination reaction.

  • This suggests there is a slow rate determining step involving the ketone and the hydrogen ion in the mechanism and what ever happens next e.g. involving the iodine, is much faster. A proposed mechanism is shown below, where R = CH3 if it was propanone. Note that very little can be absolutely proved in mechanistic detail and you will find variations of this diagram on the web.

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  • The mechanism for propanone, with only one slow step suggested is ...

    • Step (1) (CH3)2C=O + H3O+ doc b (CH3)2C=O+H + H2O

      • The ketone is reversibly protonated on the oxygen (+) by the acid in an acid–base reaction (proton transfer).

    • Step (2) (CH3)2C=O+H doc b  (CH3)2C+–OH

      • The electrons 'between' the C–O partly shift to form a carbocation i.e. the positive charge is transferred from the oxygen to the carbon.

    • Step (3) (CH3)2C+–OH + H2O doc b CH3C(OH)=CH2 + H3O+ 

      • The carbocation, derived from the protonated ketone, loses a proton and slowly changes into the 'enol'* form.

      • This involves breaking a strong C–H bond, hence a high activation energy and slow speed. The positive charge on the adjacent carbon of the carbocation facilitates in 'pulling' the C–H bond pair to form the C=C bond and release the proton to a water molecule.

      • The rate of formation of the enol thus depends on the concentrations of the ketone and the acid, explaining the rate equation experimentally found. Also note that it is an example of autocatalysis because one of the reaction products is the oxonium ion!

      • * An 'enol' has both alkene and alcohol functional groups and is isomeric with the original ketone. This is an example of functional group isomerism involving a dynamic equilibrium of the two isomers (the original ketone and enol formed) and is sometimes called an example of tautomerism.

    • Step (4)  CH3C(OH)=CH2 + I2 doc b CH3C(=O+H)–CH2I + I 

      • Half of the iodine molecule (an electrophile) then quickly adds to the 'enol' (just like any reactive alkene), and the oxygen then carries the positive charge (not on the carbon as in electrophilic addition to alkenes), and the protonated iodoketone is formed.

    • Step (5) CH3C(=O+H)–CH2I + H2doc b  CH3COCH2I + H3O+ 

      • Then a water molecule rapidly, and reversibly, removes the proton in another acid–base reaction to leave the iodo–ketone.

    • For the slow step (3), the rate depends on the isomerisation of protonated ketone/carbocation, which in turn will depend on the concentration of the ketone AND the acid providing the H3O+ ion.

  • Note:

    • The reaction can be followed by calorimetry, since the decline in iodine colour matches the reduction of the propanone concentration.

    • The same reaction is catalysed by bases and proceeds by a different mechanism and gives different products ultimately. Multiple substitution takes place, initially forming 1–iodopropanone, then 1,1–diidopropanone, and then 1,1,1–triiodopropanone. Finally, the carbon chain splits to give triiodomethane, CHI3, i.e. its the 'iodoform' reaction given by ethanol, ethanal, and all 2–ones ('methyl ketones').

    • The individual products are almost impossible to isolate in the base catalysed reaction, but in the acid catalysed reaction, the rate of halogenation decreases with successive halogen atom substitution, so it is possible to isolate e.g. 1–iodopropanone, 1,1–diiodopropanone and 1,1,1–triiodopropanone and presumably? molecules such as 1,3–diodopropanone may be formed, but I'm not sure on this one?

    • This mechanism is often presented, and not unreasonably at UK A level, as a three step mechanism, with Step (1) as the rds and clearly showing the proton's role in this acid catalysed reaction.

      1. Step (1)  (CH3)2C=O + H+ reversible mechanism step (CH3)2C=O+H

        • SLOW protonation of the ketone by the hydrogen ion

      2. Step (2)  (CH3)2C=O+H reversible mechanism step CH3C(OH)=CH2 + H+

        • FAST deprotonation and rearrangement to give the enol form)

      3. Step (3)  CH3C(OH)=CH2 + I2 mechanism step CH3COCH2I + HI

        • FAST equivalent of adding I–I across the carbon–carbon double bond >C=C< and then elimination of HI.

        • (see also organic mechanisms iodination of ketones)

Advanced A Level Kinetics Index

Revision notes for GCE Advanced Subsidiary Level AS Advanced Level A2 IB Revise AQA GCE Chemistry OCR GCE Chemistry Edexcel GCE Chemistry Salters Chemistry CIE Chemistry, WJEC GCE AS A2 Chemistry, CCEA/CEA GCE AS A2 Chemistry revising courses for pre–university students (equal to US grade 11 and grade 12 and AP Honours/honors level courses) case studies in kinetics: orders of reaction and rate expressions for Acid catalyzed iodination of propanone

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