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The nitrosation reaction is one of the methods of preparing 1,2-diketones. The enol tautomer of the starting ketone reacts with sodium nitrite in hydrochloric acid, generating the 1,2-diketone after hydrolysis.


Figure 1: Keto–enol tautomerization

As depicted in Figure 2, when treated with hydrochloric acid, sodium nitrite forms an oxonium ion. The expulsion of a water molecule from the oxonium ion produces a nitrosonium ion.


Figure 2: The chemical reaction of the formation of the nitrosonium ion

The electrophilic nitrosonium ion is attacked by the enol tautomer to give an unstable nitroso compound (Figure 3).


Figure 3: The chemical reaction of the formation of nitroso compounds

As shown in Figure 4, the tautomerization of the nitroso compound involves the transfer of the hydrogen atom from the carbon to the oxygen of the nitroso group, thereby forming a stable oxime. The stability of the oxime is due to the hydrogen bond between the oxime’s hydroxyl group and the ketone’s carbonyl oxygen. Hydrolysis of the oxime results in the formation of the 1,2-diketone as the final product.


Figure 4: The formation of a diketone from a nitroso compound via an oxime intermediate

The nitrosation reaction is regioselective, where the second carbonyl group is preferentially introduced at the more-substituted carbon.

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