Ammonium - Organic Ammonium Ions

Organic Ammonium Ions

See also: Amine

The hydrogen atoms in the ammonium ion can be substituted with an alkyl group or some other organic group to form a substituted ammonium ion (IUPAC nomenclature": aminium ion). Depending on the number of organic groups, the ammonium cation is called a primary, secondary, tertiary, or quaternary. With the exception of the quaternary ammonium cations, the organic ammonium cations are weak acids.

An example of a reaction forming an ammonium ion is that between dimethylamine, (CH3)2NH, and an acid, to give the dimethylaminium cation, (CH3)2NH+

Quaternary ammonium cations have four organic groups attached to the nitrogen atom. They lack a hydrogen atom bonded to the nitrogen atom. These cations, such as the tetra-n-butylammonium cation, are sometimes used to replace sodium or potassium ions to increase the solubility of the associated anion in organic solvents. Primary, secondary, and tertiary ammonium salts serve the same function, but are less lipophilic. They are also used as phase-transfer catalysts and surfactants.

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