Triethylborane (TEB), also called triethylboron, is an organoborane (a compound with a B-C bond). It is a colorless pyrophoric liquid. Its chemical formula is (C2H5)3B, abbreviated Et3B. It is soluble in organic solvents tetrahydrofuran and hexane.
Preparation and structure
- Et3Al + (MeO)3B → Et3B + (MeO)3Al
The molecule is monomeric, unlike H3B and Et3Al, which tend to dimerize. It has a planar BC3 core.
Triethylborane was used to ignite the JP-7 fuel in the Pratt & Whitney J58 turbojet/ramjet engines powering the Lockheed SR-71, and its predecessor A-12 OXCART. Triethylborane is suitable for this because of its pyrophoric properties, especially the fact that it burns with a very high temperature. It was chosen as an ignition method for reliability reasons, and in the case of the Blackbird, because the JP-7 fuel has very low volatility and is difficult to ignite. Conventional ignition plugs posed a high risk of malfunction. It was used to start each engine and to ignite the afterburners.
The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket also uses a triethylaluminium-triethylborane mixture as a first and second stage ignitor.
It reacts with metal enolates, yielding enoxytriethylborates that can be alkylated at the α-carbon atom of the ketone more selectively than in its absence. For example, the enolate from treating cyclohexanone with potassium hydride produces 2-allylcyclohexanone in 90% yield when triethylborane is present. Without it, the product mixture contains 43% of the mono-allylated product, 31% di-allylated cyclohexanones, and 28% unreacted starting material. The choice of base and temperature influences whether the more or less stable enolate is produced, allowing control over the position of substituents. Starting from 2-methylcyclohexanone, reacting with potassium hydride and triethylborane in THF at room temperature leads to the more substituted (and more stable) enolate, whilst reaction at −78 °C with potassium hexamethyldisilazide, KN[Si(CH3)3]2 and triethylborane generates the less substituted (and less stable) enolate. After reaction with methyl iodide the former mixture gives 2,2-dimethylcyclohexanone in 90% yield while the latter produces 2,6-dimethylcyclohexanone in 93% yield.
It is used in the Barton–McCombie deoxygenation reaction for deoxygenation of alcohols. In combination with lithium tri-tert-butoxyaluminum hydride it cleaves ethers. For example, THF is converted, after hydrolysis, to 1-butanol. It also promotes certain variants of the Reformatskii reaction.
- MH + Et3B → MBHEt3 (M = Li, Na)
Triethylborane reacts with methanol to form diethyl(methoxy)borane, which is used as the chelating agent in the Narasaka–Prasad reduction for the stereoselective generation of syn-1,3-diols from β-hydroxyketones.
Triethylborane is strongly pyrophoric, with an autoignition temperature of −20 °C (−4 °F), burning with an apple-green flame characteristic for boron compounds. Thus, it is typically handled and stored using air-free techniques.
- zip fuel
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- Fuels and Chemicals - Autoignition Temperatures
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