The rate law of an elementary reaction is rather simple. On the other hand, when combining multiple elementary steps, the rate law can become rather complex. Moreover, when speaking about catalytic reactions, the diffusion may also limit the reaction. In general, however, there is one very slow step, which is the rate-determining step, i.e. the reaction doesn't proceed any faster than the rate-determining step proceeds.
- Deprotonation next to (α to) the carbonyl: HC–C=O → C=C–O–
- Attack of enolate: Rδ+ + C=C–O– → R–C–C=O
Reaction intermediates may be trapped in a trapping reaction. This proves the stepwise nature of the reaction and the structure of the intermediate. For example, superacids were used to prove the existence of carbocations.
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