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Addition of NaBH4 to aldehydes to give primary alcohols

Description:  Addition of sodium borohydride (NaBH4) to aldehydes gives primary alcohols (after adding acid)

Examples:

Notes: Lots of different acids can be used in the last step. It’s not important which specific acid is used, just that something is present that can form the alcohol.

Mechanism:

NaBH4 is a source of hydride (H-) and the reaction begins with the addition of hydride to the carbonyl to the aldehyde (Step 1, arrows A and B). Upon addition of acid, the oxygen is protonated (Step 2, arrows C and D) to give the neutral primary alcohol.

Notes: The choice of H2O / H2SO4 as acid isn’t crucial – this is just an example. Any source of proton (including water) will do.