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Question 6

Describe a method for the identification of primary, secondary and tertiary amines. Also write chemical equations of the reactions involved.


Primary, secondary and tertiary amines can be identified and distinguished by Hinsberg's test. In this test, the amines are allowed to react with Hinsberg's reagent, benzenesulphonyl chloride (C6H5SO2Cl). The three types of amines react differently with Hinsberg's reagent. Therefore, they can be easily identified using Hinsberg's reagent.

Primary amines react with benzenesulphonyl chloride to form N-alkylbenzenesulphonyl amide which is soluble in alkali.

Due to the presence of a strong electron-withdrawing sulphonyl group in the sulphonamide, the H-atom attached to nitrogen can be easily released as proton. So, it is acidic and dissolves in alkali.

Secondary amines react with Hinsberg's reagent to give a sulphonamide which is insoluble in alkali.

There is no H-atom attached to the N-atom in the sulphonamide. Therefore, it is not acidic and insoluble in alkali.

On the other hand, tertiary amines do not react with Hinsberg's reagent at all.

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