Lithium aluminium hydride, commonly abbreviated to LAH is an inorganic compound with the chemical formula LiAlH4. It is a strong reducing agent used in organic chemistry.
LAH is sensitive to water, and reacts vigorously to release hydrogen.
- LiAlH4 + H2O → LiOH + Al(OH)3 + 4 H2
LAH is metastable at room temperature. During prolonged storage it slowly decomposes to Li3AlH6 and LiH.
LAH is a strong reducing agent, it will convert esters, carboxylic acids, acyl chlorides, aldehydes, and ketones into the corresponding alcohols. Similarly, it converts amide, azide, imine, nitrile, nitro and oxime compounds into amines. LAH is most commonly used for the reduction of esters and carboxylic acids to primary alcohols.
LAH is a white solid, however commercial samples are usually gray due to impurities. It can be purified by recrystallization from diethyl ether. The pure powdered material is pyrophoric, but its large crystals are not. LAH will react with water to release hydrogen, so samples are usually stored is airtight bags, away from any moisture. LAH is soluble in many ethereal solutions, but is more stable in THF than diethyl ether, even though it's less soluble in the former than the latter.
LAH is somewhat hard to find, due its sensitivity to air and water. Some people have been able to purchase LAH from Alibaba, from certain chemical sellers.
- Reducing esters to alcohols
- Reduce amides to amines
LAH will react with water to produce lithium hydroxide which is corrosive. It will react with both liquid water as well as the moisture from air.
It's best stored in a dry airtight container or bags, under inert or reducing conditions if possible. LAH is also a fire hazard, and in its powdered form it's pyrophoric.
The byproducts or neutralizing LAH are lithium and aluminium compounds, usually lithium hydroxide or carbonate and aluminium oxide. They can either be recycled (lithium especially) or disposed in centers that accept aluminium wastes.