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Aldehydes List


Aldehydes, characterized by the presence of a carbonyl functional group (C=O), exhibit a general structural formula of R-CHO, where R represents hydrogen or a hydrocarbon moiety. These compounds feature a carbon atom within the carbonyl group forming a double bond with oxygen and a single bond with hydrogen (Fig. 1). Typically obtained from alcohols via dehydrogenation, aldehydes serve as crucial components in the fragrance, flavor, and pharmaceutical industries, owing to their aromatic attributes and significance as intermediates in chemical synthesis. Moreover, their diverse chemical reactivity and antimicrobial properties render them useful in textile finishing, food preservation, and plastics manufacturing.

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Structure of acetaldehyde.Fig. 1 Structure of acetaldehyde.

Classification of Aldehydes

Aldehydes are commonly classified by two main methods: based on their hydrocarbon structure and by the number of carbonyl groups present in the molecule.

  • According to the hydrocarbon groups, aldehydes are categorized into two groups: aliphatic and aromatic aldehydes. Aliphatic aldehydes consist of a carbonyl group bonded to an aliphatic hydrocarbon moiety or a hydrogen atom, while aromatic aldehydes have the carbonyl group directly linked to an aromatic ring.
  • According to the number of carbonyl groups, aldehydes can be divided into mono-, di-, and poly-aldehydes. As the name suggests, the number of carbonyl groups is one, two, and more than two. For instance, glyoxal and glutaraldehyde are notable examples of binary aldehydes, featuring two carbonyl groups within their structures.

Structures of aliphatic and aromatic aldehydes.Fig. 2 Structures of aliphatic and aromatic aldehydes.

Representative Reactions

Aldehydes are versatile organic compounds capable of undergoing various reactions due to the presence of the carbonyl functional group. Here are three representative reactions.

  • Nucleophilic Addition Reaction: Aldehydes can undergo nucleophilic addition reactions with nucleophiles such as Grignard reagents or cyanide ions. For instance, in the presence of a Grignard reagent (RMgX), the carbonyl group of the aldehyde is attacked by the nucleophilic carbon of the Grignard reagent, resulting in the formation of a secondary alcohol after protonation.
  • Oxidation Reaction: Aldehydes can be oxidized to form carboxylic acids by using oxidizing agents such as potassium permanganate (KMnO4) or chromic acid (H2CrO4). In this reaction, the carbon atom of the carbonyl group is oxidized, and the aldehyde functional group is converted into a carboxylic acid functional group.
  • Aldol Condensation: Aldehydes can undergo aldol condensation reactions in the presence of a base. In this reaction, an enolate ion is formed from the aldehyde, which then acts as a nucleophile attacking another aldehyde molecule. This results in the formation of a β-hydroxyaldehyde or β-hydroxyketone product.


Due to the presence of the carbonyl functional group (C=O), aldehydes possess unique chemical properties which contribute to their wide-ranging applications in a wide range of industries, including pharmaceuticals, food, cosmetics, and many others.

  • In the pharmaceutical industry, aldehydes serve as vital intermediates and raw materials in pharmaceutical synthesis. For example, benzaldehyde and eugenol are commonly employed as starting materials in pharmaceutical synthesis. Numerous drugs can be produced from aldehydes, including antibiotics, analgesics, and anticancer medications.
  • In the food industry, aldehydes are frequently used as flavorings and preservatives in the food industry. Aldehydes such as benzaldehyde and vanillin are extensively utilized in food flavoring and seasoning, imparting specific tastes and aromas to products. Some aldehyde compounds also exhibit antimicrobial properties, making them suitable for food preservation and shelf-life extension.
  • In the cosmetics industry, aldehyde compounds are employed as fragrances and scent enhancers, similar to the food industry. For example, benzaldehyde, vanillin, and compounds like glutaraldehyde are commonly found in perfumes, lotions, skincare products, and shampoos, contributing unique scents to these items.
  • In other industries, aldehydes also play significant roles. For instance, formaldehyde is widely used in the production of resins, plastics, coatings, and adhesives. In textile finishing, aldehyde compounds can serve as cross-linking agents, enhancing fabric properties such as durability and wrinkle resistance. Additionally, aldehyde compounds find applications in wood preservation, agriculture (as pesticides), and photography (as developing agents).

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