Bromine gas, in the presence of $\ce{CCl4}$, undergoes on addition reaction at the double bond in both styrene and cinnamic acid, illustrated below.


bromination of styrene

Cinnamic acid:

bromination of cinnamic acid

Bromination of benzene in the presence of $\ce{Fe}$ and bromine gas lead to electrophillic substitution rather than addition reaction just like given here.

bromination of benzene

If we brominate styrene or cinnamic acid in presence of iron, which reaction will happen: electrophilic substitution on the benzene ring or an addition reaction on the double bond of the side group?

I could not find references to the reactions given above - specifically, in presence of iron - anywhere for styrene and cinnamic acid.

According to me, the mechanism of bromination in the presence $\ce{FeBr3}$ should follow an electrophilic substitution pathway, because the ring is more electron rich so an electrophile would preferentially attack there. However, there still is a potential factor of steric hindrance because bromine is a large ion, thus I am not certain which way the reaction will proceed.

  • $\begingroup$ please mention reason of downvote so i can edit the question please $\endgroup$ Jun 26, 2021 at 12:45
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    $\begingroup$ The text is a bit difficult to read. With some experience in the lab or / and look up in the literature, you see that tetra / $\ce{CCl4}$ (if you still allowed to use it) dissolves both the starting material, and bromine. If your question refers to illustrations, embed them here on chemistry.se (with credit to the source if not drawn by yourself); external links may vanish / move and thus render your question even less accessible and intelligible. $\endgroup$
    – Buttonwood
    Jun 26, 2021 at 16:54
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    $\begingroup$ @Samardeepsingh I did not downvote your question BUT in general, you will attract downvotes and/or vote-to-close (VTC, and as I write this there are 3 of the 5 needed to do so) if you do not include your efforts/thoughts on an answer in a post. That would be in addition to any downvotes garnered for other reasons. I encourage you to amend your post with your efforts to avoid closure. $\endgroup$ Jun 26, 2021 at 19:04
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    $\begingroup$ i edited my post @ToddMinehardt thankyou for your nice feedback $\endgroup$ Jun 26, 2021 at 20:28

1 Answer 1


In electrophilic aromatic substitution the activation energy is very high ( as it should be, since the aryl carbocation transition state is very unstable)

The role of $\ce{FeBr_3}$ or any lewis acid in general is not exactly promoting the electrophilic aromatic substitution as much as making a good electrophile. $\ce{AlCl_3}$ plays the same role much better* ($\ce{FeBr_3}$ is much weaker lewis acid than $\ce{AlCl_3}$). The evidence is in the mechanism:-

enter image description here

The lewis acid helps in creating an electrophile and later in extracting the hydrogen, it does the same thing for addition of $\ce{X_2}$ on alkenes.

Since the addition of $\ce{X_2}$ on alkenes reaction involves a less extreme transition state, it gets a very good lead against electrophilic aromatic substitution being kinetically driven it would probably happen at room temperature. Of course both reactions will happen if you have more than $1$ equivalent of $\ce{Br_2}$

We see here that in doing addition of $\ce{X_2}$ on alkenes, we lower the stability of final product by blowing up the double bond involved in an extensive resonance stabilization, therefore at high temperatures, the molecules can attain the high activation energy required easily and hence prefer the aromatic substitution over addition of $\ce{X_2}$ on alkenes . Keeping the extended resonance intact.

*Source :- Morrison and Boyd section 16.13 (Halogenation of alkylbenzenes)

  • $\begingroup$ does this principle of kinetically favourable and thermodynamically favorable product can be applied to both styrene and cinnamic acid ??? $\endgroup$ Jun 27, 2021 at 7:39
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    $\begingroup$ yes, this principle is applicable for both, I just used cinnamic acid because it has a longer conjugation. $\endgroup$ Jun 27, 2021 at 9:13

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