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Alcohols can be made from alkyl halides, which can be made from alkanes. However $3° > 2° > 1° > 0°$ for alkyl halides synthesis from alkanes. What approach could make an alkane with primary and secondary carbons into only primary alcohols?

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    $\begingroup$ I'm pretty sure you'd be on course to win a Nobel prize if you can do that selectively with good yields. This is what the C-H activation chemists are looking at all the time, and it's hard. $\endgroup$
    – Zhe
    Apr 18 '17 at 1:26
  • $\begingroup$ I have suggested a possible mechanism for free radical reaction of alkanes to produce alcohols, give it a read :) chemistry.stackexchange.com/questions/72902/… $\endgroup$ Apr 24 '17 at 16:04
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    $\begingroup$ @PrittBalagopal Seems like an experiment is needed. $\endgroup$
    – Dale
    Apr 24 '17 at 19:51
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Recently a research paper[1] has been published which claims to effectively convert n-alkanes into n-alcohols.

It proposes a quadruple relay catalysis for selective synthesis of n-alcohols from n-alkanes via the following reaction pathway:

quadruple relay catalysis for selective synthesis of n-alcohols from n-alkanes

The reaction seems to get yields higher than 75%. The paper itself goes into much detail about each catalyst and its role.

The only catch here is that as this is a hydromethylation, you need to start with an alkane which has one carbon less in its chain than the required alcohol.


Reference:

[1]: Tang, X.; Gan, L.; Zhang, X.; Huang, Z. N-Alkanes to n-Alcohols: Formal Primary C─H Bond Hydroxymethylation via Quadruple Relay Catalysis. Sci. Adv. 2020, 6 (47), eabc6688.

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