Oppenauer Oxidation

Oppenauer Oxidation reaction is named after Rupert Viktor Oppenauer. This method is used for selectively oxidizing secondary alcohols to ketones, using aluminium isopropoxide in excess acetone.

Oppenauer Oxidation

The reaction is the opposite of Meerwein-Ponndorf-Verley reduction.

Oppenauer oxidation is an important reaction used in the synthesis of alkaloids, hormones, steroids, and terpenes. The low reactivity of aluminium alkoxide used in this reaction can be improved by tert-Bu-CHO and excess acetone as the powerful hydride acceptor. Excess acetone shifts the equilibrium toward the product side.

In Oppenauer oxidation, the aluminium-catalysed hydride shift occurs from the α-carbon of an alcohol component to the carbonyl carbon of a second component.

Mechanism Oppenauer Oxidation:

Oppenauer Oxidation Mechanism

In the first step, alcohol coordinates with aluminium isopropoxide to form complex isopropyl alcohol. The reaction begins with the alcohol (starting material) replacing one of the isopropoxide groups on the aluminium to generate isopropyl alcohol.

Oppenauer Oxidation Mechanism

The complex reacts with a ketone (acetone) to form a six-membered transition complex.


The α-carbon of the alcohol (starting material) is converted to the carbonyl carbon (product) from the aluminium-catalysed hydride shift. The desired ketone is formed after the hydride transfer.


The last step thus results in the formation of the final ketone product and regeneration of the aluminium isopropoxide catalyst.

Woodward Modification: In the Woodward modification, potassium tert-butoxide is used in place of aluminium alkoxide. He used potassium tert-butoxide and benzophenone for the oxidation of quinine to quininone.

Woodward Modification

Applications in Drug synthesis

(1) The analgesic drug codeine is converted to codeinone by Oppenaure oxidation.

(2) The female sex hormone progesterone is prepared by the Oppenauer oxidation of pregnenolone.

Oppenauer oxidation
Make sure you also check our other amazing Article on : Clemmensen Reduction
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