One of an important class of reactive organic compounds derived from acids via formal intermolecular dehydration.
Anhydrides of straight-chain acids containing from 2 to 12 carbon atoms are liquids with boiling points higher than those of the parent acids. They are relatively insoluble in cold water and are soluble in alcohol, ether, and other common organic solvents. The lower members are pungent, corrosive, and weakly lacrimatory.
Anhydrides from acids with more than 12 carbon atoms and cyclic anhydrides from dicarboxylic acids are crystalline solids.
Because the direct intermolecular removal of water from organic acids is not practicable, anhydrides must be prepared by means of indirect processes. A general method involves interaction of an acid salt with an acid chloride.
Acetic anhydride, the most important aliphatic anhydride, is manufactured by air oxidation of acetaldehyde, using as catalysts the acetates of copper and cobalt.
Cyclic anhydrides are obtained by warming succinic or glutaric acids, either alone, with acetic anhydride, or with acetyl chloride. Under these conditions, adipic acid first forms linear, polymeric anhydride mixtures, from which the monomer is obtained by slow, high-vacuum distillation. Cyclic anhydrides are also formed by simple heat treatment of cis-unsaturated dicarboxylic acids, for example, maleic and glutaconic acids; and of aromatic 1,2-dicarboxylic acids, for example, phthalic acid. Commercially, however, both phthalic and maleic anhydrides are primary products of manufacture,being formed by vapor-phase, catalytic (vanadium pentoxide), air oxidation of naphthalene and benzene, respectively; at the reaction temperature, the anhydrides form directly.
Anhydrides are used in the preparation of esters. Ethyl acetate and butyl acetate (from butyl alcohol and acetic anhydride) are excellent solvents for cellulose nitrate lacquers. Acetates of high-molecular-weight alcohols are used as plasticizers for plastics and resins. Cellulose and acetic anhydride give cellulose acetate, used in acetate rayon and photographic film. The reaction of anhydrides with sodium peroxide forms peroxides (acetyl peroxide is violently explosive), used as catalysts for polymerization reactions and for addition of alkyl halides to alkenes. In Friedel-Crafts reactions, anhydrides react with aromatic compounds, forming ketones such as acetophenone.
Maleic anhydride reacts with many dienes to give hydroaromatics of various complexities (Diels-Alder reaction). Maleic anhydride is used commercially in the manufacture of alkyd resins from polyhydric alcohols. Soil conditioners are produced by basic hydrolysis of the copolymer of maleic anhydride with vinyl acetate.
Phthalic anhydride and alcohols form esters (phthalates) used as plasticizers for plastics and resins. Condensed with phenols and sulfuric acid, phthalic anhydride yields phthaleins, such as phenolphthalein; with m-dihydroxybenzenes under the same conditions, xanthene dyes form, for example, fluorescein. Phthalic anhydride is used in manufacturing glyptal resins (from the anhydride and glycerol) and in manufacturing anthraquinone. Heating phthalic anhydride with ammonia gives phthalimide, used in Gabriel’s synthesis of primary amines, amino acids, and anthranilic acid (a-aminobenzoic acid). With alkaline hydrogen peroxide, phthalic anhydride yields monoperoxyphthalic acid, used along with benzoyl peroxide as polymerization catalysts, and as bleaching agents for oils, fats, and other edibles.
Anhydrides react with water to form the parent acid, with alcohols to give esters, and with ammonia to yield amides; and with primary or secondary amines, they furnish N-substituted and N,N-disubstituted amides, respectively.