Metal acetylide

Acetylide (systematically named ethynediide, and dicarbide(2−)) is an inorganic anion with the chemical formula . It contributes no colour to acetylide salts. It is classified as a strong base.

Such anions result from the removal of one or two protons from acetylene C2H2. Acetylide also refers to the anion of the formula RC≡C, where R is an organic substituent. Acetylides are useful reagents in organic chemistry. Some acetylides are notoriously explosive.


The trivial name acetylide is the most commonly used and preferred IUPAC name. The systematic names ethynediide and dicarbide(2−), valid IUPAC names, are constructed according to the substitutive and additive nomenclatures, respectively.

Acetylide is also used to describe compounds which release acetylene upon acidification.


Although acetylides are described as anions in salts, they are not. The anion is strongly bonded to a metal cation. Thus, alkalii metal acetylides adopt complex structures exhibiting extended interactions. Nonetheless, the anion names are also used for salt-like materials such as copper acetylide (Cu2C2), lithium hydrogenacetylide (LiC2H), and silver methylacetylide (AgCH3C2). Some metal acetylides are traditionally called carbides. For example, lithium carbide and calcium carbide are really derivatives of C22−.


Acetylides of the alkali metals can be prepared by deprotonation of acetylene in liquid ammonia. Other strong bases such as butyllithium[1] or LiHMDS[2] are also frequently used:

Copper(I) acetylide can be prepared by passing acetylene through a water solution of copper(I) chloride. Silver acetylide can be obtained in a similar way from silver nitrate.

Calcium carbide is prepared by heating carbon with lime CaO at approximately 2000 °C. A similar process is used to produce lithium carbide.


Acetylide ions are very useful in organic chemistry reactions in combining carbon chains, particularly addition and substitution reactions. One type of reaction displayed by acetylides are addition reactions with ketones to form tertiary alcohols. In the reaction in scheme 1 the alkyne proton of ethyl propiolate is deprotonated by n-butyllithium at -78 °C to form lithium ethyl propiolate to which cyclopentanone is added forming a lithium alkoxide. Acetic acid is added to remove lithium and liberate the free alcohol.[3]

Coupling reactions of alkynes like the Sonogashira coupling, the Cadiot-Chodkiewicz coupling, the Glaser coupling and the Eglinton coupling often have metal acetylides as intermediates.

Several modifications of the reaction with carbonyls are known:

  • In the Isler modification ethoxyacetylene is replaced by beta-chlorovinyl ether and lithium amide.
  • In the Favorskii–Babayan synthesis ketones and acetylenic compounds react in presence of alkali.[6]

Formation of acetylides poses a risk in handling of gaseous acetylene in presence of metals such as mercury, silver or copper, or alloys with their high content (brass, bronze, silver solder).

See also


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