The reaction has been named after its discoverer, the Russian chemist Nikolai Menshutkin, who described the procedure in 1890. Depending on the source, his name (and the reaction named after him) is spelled as Menšutkin, Menshutkin or Menschutkin.
The reaction between amines and alkyl halogenides is hard to control, making alternative routes (for instance reductive amination) more attractive. However, when quaternary ammonium salts are the desired end product, this reaction becomes an interesting option. Yields are good and the reaction is easily performed. R1–R4 can but do not have to be identical. Some phase transfer catalysts (PTC) can be prepared according to the Menshutkin reaction, for instance the synthesis of triethyl benzyl ammonium chloride (TEBA) from triethylamine and benzyl chloride:
Chlorinated solvents, including dichloromethane, chloroform, and dichloroethane are competent electrophiles for the Menshutkin reaction. Even pyridines, which are considerably less nucleophilic than typical tertiary amines, are reported to react with dichloromethane at room temperature over a period of several days to weeks to give bis(pyridinium)methane salts. For this reason, use of chlorinated solvents may be inadvisable when a tertiary amine is present in a reaction mixture and heating and/or extended reaction times are required.
- N. Menschutkin. Beiträgen zur Kenntnis der Affinitätskoeffizienten der Alkylhaloide und der organischen Amine Z. Physik. Chem. 5 (1890) 589.
- N Menschutkin. Über die Affinitätskoeffizienten der Alkylhaloide und der Amine Z. Physik. Chem. 6 (1890) 41.
- M B Smith, J March. March's Advanced Organic Chemistry (Wiley, 2001) (ISBN 0-471-58589-0)
- Lexikon bedeutender Chemiker (VEB Bibliographisches Institut Leipzig, 1989) (ISBN 3817110553
- Dramatic Acceleration of the Menschutkin Reaction and Distortion of Halide Leaving-Group Order Keith J. Stanger, Jung-Jae Lee, and Bradley D. Smith J. Org. Chem. 2007, 72, 9663–68 doi:10.1021/jo702090p
- Reaction of Dichlormethane with Pyridine Derivatives under Ambient Conditions Alexander B. Rudine, Michael G. Walter, and Carl C. Wamser J. Org. Chem. 2010, 75, 4292–95 doi:10.1021/jo100276m