Herbert Brown – pioneer in organoboranes chemistry

Category : Personalities
Published by : Data Research Analyst, Worldofchemicals.com

Biography & contributions

Herbert Brown [Herbert Charles Brown] was an American chemist and Nobel laureate born on May 22, 1912 died on December 19, 2004. Herbert had done major work on organoboranes.

Herbert was got many notable medals and awards in his career like National Medal of Science in the year of 1969, Nobel Prize for chemistry in the year of 1979, Priestley Medal & Perkin Medal in the year of 1981, Herbert C. Brown Award in the year of 1998.Herbert also studied on aromatic substitution reactions, molecular addition compounds, and the reacceptance of steric effects, diborane in organic synthesis.

In 1956 he discovered that unsaturated organic molecules can be easily converted to organoboranes through hydroboration reactions. Herbert observed the reactions of diborane with aldehydes, ketones, esters, and acid chlorides. He discovered that diborane reacts with aldehydes and ketones to produce dialkoxyboranes, which are hydrolyzed by water to produce alcohols. Brown and Schlesinger discovered that lithium hydride reacts with boron trifluoride in ethyl ether, allowing them to produce diborane in larger quantities.


Organoborane compounds are chemical compounds that are organic derivatives of BH3. Organoboron compounds are important reagents in organic chemistry enabling many chemical transformations, the most important one called hydroboration.


Diborane is the chemical compound consisting of boron and hydrogen with the formula B2H6. It is a colorless gas at room temperature with a repulsively sweet odor. Diborane mixes well with air, easily forming explosive mixtures. Diborane will ignite spontaneously in moist air at room temperature. Diborane is a key boron compound with a variety of applications.

Diborane is a highly reactive and versatile reagent that has a large number of applications. Its dominating reaction pattern involves formation of adducts with Lewis bases. Diborane also reacts readily with alkynes to form substituted alkene products which will readily undergo further addition reactions.

Diborane and its variants are central organic synthesis reagents for hydroboration, whereby alkenes add across the B-H bonds to give trialkylboranes. Diborane is used as a reducing agent roughly complementary to the reactivity of lithium aluminium hydride.

Diborane has been suggested as a rocket propellant. It is also an intermediate in the production of highly pure boron for semiconductor production. Diborane is also used to coat the walls of tokamaks to reduce the amount of heavy metal impurities in the plasma, as a reducing agent, as a rubber vulcanizer, as a catalyst for hydrocarbon polymerization, as a flame-speed accelerator, and as a doping agent. It is also used in electronics to impart electrical properties in pure crystals.

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