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An Oxidation-Reduction Scheme: Borneol, Camphor and Isoborneol

H 3C CH3 CH3 H3C CH3

H 3C H 3C

Borneol Camphor Isoborneol

This experiment will illustrate the use of a "green" oxidizing agent, sodium hypochlo-rite (bleach) in
acetic acid, for converting a secondary alcohol (borneol) to a ketone (camphor). This reaction will be
followed by TLC to monitor the progress of the oxidation. The camphor is then reduced by sodium
borohydride to give the isomeric alcohol, isoborneol. The spectra of borneol, camphor, and isoborneol will
be compared to detect structural differences and to determine the extent to which the final step produces an
alcohol isomeric with the starting material, borneol.


Sodium hypochlorite, bleach, can be used to oxidize secondary alcohols to ketones. Because this reaction occurs
more rapidly in an acidic environment, it is likely that the actual oxidizing agent is hypochlorous acid, HOC1. This
acid is generated by the reaction between sodium hypochlorite and acetic acid.


Although the mechanism is not fully understood, there is evidence that an alkyl hypochlorite intermediate is
produced, which then gives the product via an E2 elimination:

H3C CH3 H 3C CH3 CH3

H 3C
H 3C H3C H
OH O Cl H 3C O


Metal hydrides (sources of H:-) of the Group III elements, such as lithium aluminum hydride, LiAlH4, and
sodium borohydride, NaBH4, are widely used in reducing carbonyl groups. Lithium aluminum hydride, for
example, reduces many compounds containing carbonyl groups, such as aldehydes, ketones, carboxylic acids,
esters, or amides, whereas sodium borohydride reduces only aldehydes and ketones. The reduced reactivity of
borohydride allows it to be used even in alcohol and water solvents, whereas lithium aluminum hydride reacts
violently with these solvents to produce hydrogen gas and thus must be used in non-hydroxylic solvents. In the
present experiment, sodium borohydride is used because it is easily handled, and the results of reductions using
either of the two reagents are essentially the same. The same care need not be taken in keeping sodium
borohydride away from water as is required with lithium aluminum hydride.
The mechanism of action of sodium borohydride in reducing a ketone is as follows:

Note in this mechanism that all four hydrogen atoms are available as hydrides (H:- ), and thus one mole of
borohydride can reduce four moles of ketones. All the steps are irreversible. Usually, excess borohydride
is used because there is uncertainty regarding its purity and because some of it reacts with the solvent.
Once the final tetraalkoxyboron compound (1) is produced, it can be decomposed (along with
excess borohydride) at elevated temperatures as shown:

(R2CH —O)4 B- Na+ + 4R'OH(i) → 4 R2CHOH + (R'O)4 B- Na+


The stereochemistry of the reduction is very interesting. The hydride can approach the camphor
molecule more easily from the bottom side (e n d o approach) than from the top side

(exo approach). If attack occurs at the top, a large steric repulsion is created by one of the two
geminal methyl groups. Geminal methyl groups are groups that are attached to the same carbon.
Attack at the bottom avoids this steric interaction.

It is expected, therefore, that is o b o r n e o l, the alcohol produced from the attack at the least-hindered
position, will predominate but will not be the exclusive product in the final reaction mixture. The
percentage composition of the mixture can be determined by spectroscopy.
It is interesting to note that when the methyl groups are removed (as in 2-norborna-none), the
top side (exo approach) is favored, and the opposite stereochemical result is obtained. Again, the
reaction does not give exclusively one product.

Special Instructions

The reactants and products are all highly volatile and must be stored in tightly closed containers. The
reaction should be carried out in a well-ventilated room or under a hood because a small amount of
chlorine gas will be emitted from the reaction mixture.

Suggested Waste Disposal

The aqueous solutions obtained from the extraction steps should be placed in the aqueous waste
container. Any leftover methanol may be placed in the non-halogenated organic waste container.
Methylene chloride may be placed in the halogenated waste container.
Assemble the Apparatus. To a 50-mL round-
bottom flask, add 1.0 g of racemic borneol, ~3 ml
of acetone, and 0.8 ml of acetic acid (approx. 10
drops). After adding a magnetic stir bar to the
flask, attach a water condenser and place the
round-bottom flask in a warm water bath at 50°C,
as shown Figure 1. The apparatus should be set up in
a good fume hood or in a well-ventilated room
because of the potential for evolution of chlorine
gas. It is important that the temperature of the
water bath remain near 50°C during the entire
reaction period. Stir the mixture until the borneol
is dissolved. If the borneol does not dissolve, add
about 1 ml of acetone.
A d d itio n o f S o d iu m H y p o c h lo r ite .
Measure out 18 ml of 6% sodium hypochlorite
solution in a graduated cylinder. Add dropwise 1.5 ml of the hypochlorite solution every 4 minutes
through the top of the water-cooled condenser. The addition will take 48 minutes to complete. Continue
to stir and heat the mixture during the 48-minute period. Following the addition, heat and stir the
mixture for an additional 5 minutes. Allow the reaction mixture to cool to room temperature. Remove
the condenser.
Monitoring the Oxidation with
Thin-Layer Chromatography (TLC).
The reaction progress can be monitored
by TLC. Remove about 1 mL of reaction
mixture with a Pasteur pipet and place it
into a centrifuge tube. Add about 1 mL
of methylene chloride, cap the tube, and
shake the tube for a few minutes.
Remove the lower, methylene chloride,
layer with a Pasteur pipet in such a way
to avoid drawing up any aqueous layer.
Place the methylene chloride extract into
a dry test tube.
Prepare a 30-mm x 70-mm silica gel
TLC plate (Whatman Silica Gel plate with
aluminum backing. No. 4420-222) that will be spotted with three solutions using micro-pipets. Borneol
(2% in methylene chloride) is spotted in lane 1, camphor (2% in methylene chloride) in lane 2, and the
reaction mixture dissolved in methylene chloride in lane 3. Spot each solution 2 or 3 times, each time
spotting it on top of the previous spot (allow the previous spot to dry before applying the next one).
Prepare a developing chamber by using a 400mL beaker and watch glass, using methylene chloride as the
solvent. Put the plate into the developing chamber. When the solvent front has traveled about 5 cm,
remove the plate, evaporate the solvent, and place the plate into another beaker with a watch glass that
contains a few crystals of iodine. Gently, heat the jar on a hotplate. The iodine vapors will visualize the
spots. Camphor will have a larger R-value than borneol. Unfortunately, camphor and borneol do not
give intense spots with iodine, but you should be able to see them. The relative amounts of borneol and
camphor can be determined by the relative intensity of the spots on the plates. The reaction will be judged
to be complete if the borneol spot in lane 3 is not visible. If some borneol remains as determined by the
TLC method, reattach the water condenser, reheat the reaction mixture in the round-bottom flask, and
then add 3 mL more of sodium hypochlorite solution dropwise to the reaction mixture over a 10-
minute period. Check the mixture again using the previous procedure and a new TLC plate. Ideally,
borneol should not be visible on the plate, and camphor should be visible.

E x t r a c t i o n o f C a m p h o r . When the reaction is complete, allow the mixture to cool to room

temperature. Remove the water condenser and transfer the mixture to a separatory funnel using 10 mL
of methylene chloride to aid the transfer by rinsing the any remaining Camphor in the round-bottom
flask. Shake the separatory funnel remembering the ‘burp’ any methylene chloride vapor. Drain the lower
organic layer from the funnel to a beaker. Extract the aqueous layer remaining in the separatory funnel
with another 10-mL portion of methylene chloride, combine the two organic layers in the beaker and
discard the aqueous layer. Return the organic layer to the separatory funnel and extract the combined
methylene chloride with 6 mL of saturated sodium bicarbonate solution, being careful to vent the funnel
frequently to release carbon dioxide gas formed from reaction with acetic acid. Drain the lower
organic layer and discard the aqueous layer. Return the organic layer to the separatory funnel and extract
it with 6 ml of 5% sodium bisulfite solution. Drain the lower organic layer and discard the aqueous
layer. Return the organic layer to the separatory funnel and extract it with 6 ml of water. Drain the
organic layer into a dry Erlenmeyer flask and add about 2 g of granular anhydrous sodium sulfate to
dry the solution. Swirl gently until any cloudiness in the solution is removed. If all the sodium sulfate
clumps together when the mixture is stirred with a spatula, add some additional drying agent. Cork the
flask, and allow the solution to dry for about 5 minutes.

I s o la tio n o f P r o d u c t. Transfer the dried methylene chloride extracts to a pre-weighed 50-mL

Erlenmeyer flask. Evaporate the solvent in the hood with a gentle stream of dry air while heating the
Erlenmeyer flask in a water bath at 40-50°C. When all the liquid has evaporated and a solid has
appeared, remove the flask from the heat source. If the crystals appear wet with solvent, apply a vacuum
for a few minutes to remove any residual solvent.

A n a ly s is o f C a m p h o r . Weigh the flask to determine the weight of your product and calculate
the percentage yield. At the option of your instructor, determine the melting point of product. The
melting point of pure camphor is 174°C, but it is likely that the melting point obtained will be lower
than this value because impurities drastically affect the melting behavior of camphor.

Infrared Spectrum . Before proceeding to Part B, you should verify that the oxidation was
successful. This can be done by determining the infrared spectrum of camphor product. By examination of
the infrared peaks, determine if the borneol (an alcohol OH stretch) is absent, or nearly absent, and if the
borneol has been oxidized to camphor (a ketone C=O stretch). For comparison, an infrared spectrum of
camphor is shown on page. If your oxidation was not totally successful, consult your instructor for your
options. The camphor is reduced in Part B to isoborneol. Store the camphor in a tightly stoppered flask.


R e d u c t i o n . The camphor obtained in Part A should not contain borneol. If it does, show your
infrared spectrum to your instructor and ask for advice. If the amount
of camphor obtained in Part A, is less than 0.25 g, obtain some camphor from the supply shelf to
supplement your yield. If the amount is more than 0.25 g, scale up the reagents appropriately from the
following amounts. Add 1.5 ml of methanol to the camphor contained in a 50-mL flask. Stir with a
glass stirring rod until the camphor has dissolved. In portions, cautiously and intermittently add 0.25 g
of sodium borohydride to the solution with a spatula. When all of the boro-hydride is added, boil the
contents of the flask on a warm hot plate (low setting) for 2 minutes.

I s o l a t i o n a n d A n a l y s i s o f P r o d u c t . Allow the reaction mixture to cool for several minutes

and carefully add 10 ml of ice water. Collect the white solid by filtering it on a Hirsch funnel and, by
using suction, allow the solid to dry for a few minutes. Transfer the solid to a dry Erlenmeyer flask.
Add about 10 ml of methylene chloride to dissolve the product. Once the product has dissolved (add
more solvent, if necessary), add about 0.5 g of granular anhydrous sodium sulfate to dry the solution.
When dry, the solution should not be cloudy. If the solution is still cloudy, add some more granular
anhydrous sodium sulfate. Transfer the solution from the drying agent into a pre-weighed dry flask.
Evaporate the solvent in a hood, as described previously.
Determine the weight of the product and calculate the percentage yield. At the option of the
instructor, determine the melting point; pure isoborneol melts at 212°C. Determine the infrared
spectrum of the product by the dry film method used previously with camphor. Compare the spectrum
with the infrared spectra for borneol and isoborneol shown in the figures.



G as C hrom atography. The isomer ratio and percentages can also be obtained by gas
chromatography. Your instructor will provide instructions for preparing your sample. A Gow-Mac 69-
360 instrument fitted with an 8-ft column of 10% Carbowax 20M, in an oven set at 180°C, and with a
40 mL/min helium flow rate will completely separate isoborneol and borneol from each other. In
addition, any residual camphor can be observed. The retention times for camphor, isoborneol, and
borneol are 8, 10, and 11 minutes, respectively. Other instrument conditions are provided in the Notes
to the Instructor.

Pre-Lab Questions
1. How do you expect to tell the difference between borneol and camphor by IR?
2. How do you expect to tell the difference between borneol and isoborneol at the end of the
3. The reaction below, proceeds as follows: Why do you think you only get one product
instead of two?

4. Please predict the products of the following reactions:





Post- Lab Questions
1. Interpret the major absorption bands in the infrared spectra of camphor, borneol, and iso-borneol.

2. A sample of iso-borneol prepared by reduction of camphor was analyzed by IR spectroscopy and showed
a band at 1750 cm-1. This result is unexpected, why?

3. Why was the methylene chloride layer washed with sodium bicarbonate in the procedure for preparing

4. Why was the methylene chloride layer washed with sodium bisulfite in the procedure for preparing


Pavia, D. L., et al. “Experiment 33” Introduction to Organic Laboratory Techniques-A Small Scale Approach 2nd ed,
(2005), 272-287.
Brown, H. C., and Muzzio, J. "Rates of Reaction of Sodium Borohydride with Bicyclic Ketones." Journal of the
American Chemical Society, 88(1966): 2811.
Dauben, W. G., Fonken, G. J., and Noyce, D. S. "Stereochemistry of Hydride Reductions." Journal of the American
Chemical Society, 78 (1956): 2579.
Markgraf, J. H. "Stereochemical Correlations in the Camphor Series." Journal of Chemical Education, 44 (1967): 36