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Reduction of nitriles to primary amines with LiAlH4

Description: Lithium aluminum hydride [but NOT sodium borohydride (NaBH4)] can reduce nitriles to primary amines.


The purpose of acid at the end is to protonate the nitrogen in order to give the amine.

Note that 2 or more equivalents of LiAlH4 is best for this reaction.


Notes: Note that the last example is a cyanohydrin, which also works in this reaction.


Addition of hydride ion (H–) from LiAlH4 to the carbon of the nitrile in a 1,2-addition (Step 1, arrows A and B) followed by addition of a second equivalent of hydride (Step 2, arrows C and D) gives an amine anion. When acid is added, the nitrogen is protonated twice to give the neutral amine.

Notes: The choice of Cl as the counter-ion for H3O(+) here is completely arbitrary – it’s just a spectator ion, anyway. Note that it could also be reasonable to use an equivalent of AlH3 formed after Step 1 as the reducing agent in Step 2.