One of a class of organic chemical compounds represented by the general formula RCHO. Formaldehyde, the simplest aldehyde, has the formula HCHO, where R is hydrogen. For all other aldehydes, R is a hydrocarbon radical which may be substituted with other groups such as halogen or hydroxyl (see table). Because of their high chemical reactivity, aldehydes are important intermediates for the manufacture of resins, plasticizers, solvents, dyes, and pharmaceuticals.
At room temperature formaldehyde is a colorless gas. The other low-molecularweight aldehydes are colorless liquids having characteristic, somewhat acrid odors. The unsaturated aldehydes acrolein and crotonaldehyde are powerful lacrimators. The important reactions of aldehydes include oxidation, reduction, aldol condensation, Cannizzaro reaction, and reactions with compounds containing nitrogen.
Because of the importance of aldehydes as chemical intermediates, many industrial and laboratory syntheses have been developed. The more important of these methods include catalytic dehydrogenation of primary alcohols, oxidation of primary alcohols, oxidation of olefins, and hydroformylation of olefins.