When a Reaction Goes Wrong: A Checklist
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If your reaction did not work, ask yourself these questions:
- Are you sure the reaction was run in clean glassware, with pure solvents, under an inert atmosphere?
- Were your calculations correct?
- Was your starting material pure?
- Are you sure your reagents were of good quality? (some reagents should be distilled immediately prior to use in a reaction: see <should it be purified?>)
- Did you run the reaction at the correct concentration?
Running the Reaction:
- Were you able to monitor the reaction accurately, or was TLC unreliable? (see troubleshooting TLC)
- Did you monitor the reaction from start to finish, to see when the problem occurred? (e.g. did you run the reaction for too long, so that decomposition occurred?)
- Were you aware of the temperature of the reaction mixture throughout the reaction course? See notes on temperature.
- Did you add the components of the reaction in the correct order, at the correct rate? See notes on adding reagents.
- Was stirring efficient? If you noticed that stirring was problematic, see notes on stirring for some tips.
- If no reaction occurred, could you raise the temperature, or add more reagent, to encourage reaction?