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Amine oxide

An amine oxide, also known as amine-N-oxide and N-oxide, is a chemical compound that contains the functional group R3N+−O−, an N−O coordinate covalent bond with three additional hydrogen and/or hydrocarbon side chains attached to N. Sometimes it is written as R3N→O or, wrongly, as R3N=O. In the strict sense the term amine oxide applies only to oxides of tertiary amines. Sometimes it is also used for the analogous derivatives of primary and secondary amines. Examples of amine oxides include pyridine-N-oxide, a water-soluble crystalline solid with melting point 62–67 °C, and N-methylmorpholine N-oxide, which is an oxidant.


Amine oxides are surfactants commonly used in consumer products such as shampoos, conditioners, detergents, and hard surface cleaners. Alkyl dimethyl amine oxide (chain lengths C10–C16) is the most commercially used amine oxide. They are considered a high production volume class of compounds in more than one member country of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD); with annual production over 26,000, 16,000 and 6,800 metric tons in the US, Europe, and Japan, respectively. In North America, more than 95% of amine oxides are used in home cleaning products. They serve as stabilizers, thickeners, emollients, emulsifiers and conditioners with active concentrations in the range of 0.1–10%. The remainder (< 5%) is used in personal care, institutional, commercial products and for unique patented uses such as photography.


Amine oxides are used as protecting group for amines and as chemical intermediates. Long-chain alkyl amine oxides are used as amphoteric surfactants and foam stabilizers. Amine oxides are highly polar molecules and have a polarity close to that of quaternary ammonium salts. Small amine oxides are very hydrophilic and have an excellent water solubility and a very poor solubility in most organic solvents. Amine oxides are weak bases with a pKa of around 4.5 that form R3N+−OH, cationic hydroxylamines, upon protonation at a pH below their pKa.


Amine oxides are prepared by oxidation of tertiary amines or pyridine analogs with hydrogen peroxide (H2O2), Caro's acid or peracids like mCPBA in N-oxidation.Recent trends in the chemistry of pyridine N-oxides Shaker Youssif Arkivoc 2001 Link


March's Advanced Organic Chemistry: Reactions, Mechanisms, and Structure Michael B. Smith, Jerry March Wiley-Interscience, 5th edition, 2001, in a 1,2-rearrangement: or a 2,3-rearrangment:
  • In the Polonovski reaction a tertiary N-oxide is cleaved by acetic acid anhydride to the corresponding acetamide and aldehyde:M. Polonovski, M. Polonovski, Bull. Soc. Chim. France 41, 1190 (1927).Strategic Applications of Named Reactions in Organic Synthesis (Paperback) by Laszlo Kürti, Barbara Czako .

Examples of amine oxide compounds


Amine oxides are common metabolites of medication and psychoactive drugs. Examples include nicotine, Zolmitriptan, and morphine. Amine oxides of anti-cancer drugs have been developed as prodrugs that are metabolized in the oxygen deficient cancer tissue to the active drug.

Human safety

Amine oxides (AO) are not known to be carcinogenic, dermal sensitizers or cause reproductive toxicity. They are readily metabolized and excreted if ingested. Chronic ingestion by rabbits found lower body weight, diarrhea and lenticular opacities at a lowest observed adverse effect levels (LOAEL) in the range of 87–150 mg AO/kw bw/day. Tests of human skin exposure have found that after 8 hours less than 1% is absorbed into the body. Eye irritation due to amine oxides and other surfactants is moderate and temporary with no lasting effects.

Environmental safety

Amine oxides with an average chain length of 12.6 have been measured to be water-soluble at ~410 g L−1. They are considered to have low bioaccumulation potential in aquatic species based on log Kow data from chain lengths less than C14 (bioconcentration factor < 87%). Levels of AO in untreated influent were found to be 2.3–27.8 ug L−1, while in effluent they were found to be 0.4–2.91 ug L−1. The highest effluent concentrations were found in oxidation ditch and trickling filter treatment plants. On average, over 96% removal has been found with secondary activated sludge treatment. Acute toxicity in fish, as indicated by 96h LC50 tests, is in the range of 1,000–3,000 ug L−1 for carbon chain lengths less than C14. LC50 values for chain lengths greater than C14 range from 600 to 1400 ug L−1. Chronic toxicity data for fish is 420 ug/L. When normalized to C12.9, the NOEC is 310 ug L−1 for growth and hatchability.

See also


External links

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This article based upon the http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amine_oxide, the free encyclopaedia Wikipedia and is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License.
Further informations available on the list of authors and history: http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Amine_oxide&action=history
presented by: Ingo Malchow, Mirower Bogen 22, 17235 Neustrelitz, Germany