Hydrolysis of acid halides is a nucleophilic acyl substitution reaction in which acid halides react with water to give carboxylic acids. The reaction occurs readily and does not require acid or a base catalyst.
As shown below, the mechanism involves a nucleophilic attack by water at the carbonyl carbon to form a tetrahedral intermediate. This is followed by the reformation of the carbon–oxygen π bond along with the departure of a halide ion. A final proton transfer step yields carboxylic acid as the substitution product.
The reaction produces a very strong acid, HCl, as a by-product. Therefore, a base such as pyridine is used in the reaction, which reacts with HCl to form pyridinium chloride. This process neutralizes the acid and prevents undesired side reactions.
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