Chloral, also known as trichloroacetaldehyde or trichloroethanal, is the organic compound with the formula Cl3CCHO. This aldehyde is a colourless oily liquid that is soluble in a wide range of solvents. It reacts with water to form chloral hydrate, a once widely used sedative and hypnotic substance.
The chloral hydrate is distilled from the reaction mixture. The distillate is then dehydrated with concentrated sulfuric acid, after which the heavier acid layer (containing the water) is drawn off:
Cl3CCH(OH)2 → Cl3CCHO + H2O
The resulting product is purified by fractional distillation. Small amounts of chloral hydrate occur in some chlorinated water.
Chloral tends to form adducts with water (to give chloral hydrate) and alcohols.
Aside from its tendency to hydrate, chloral is notable as a building block in the synthesis of DDT. For this purpose, chloral is treated with chlorobenzene in the presence of a catalytic amount of sulfuric acid:
Chloral and chloral hydrate have the same properties biologically since the former hydrates rapidly. Chloral hydrate was routinely administered to patients on the gram scale with no lasting effects. Prolonged exposure to the vapors is unhealthy with a LC50 for 4-hour exposure of 440 mg/m3.
Liebig, Justus (1832). "Ueber die Verbindungen, welche durch die Einwirkung des Chlors auf Alkohol, Aether, ölbildendes Gas und Essiggeist entstehen" [On the compounds which arise by the reaction of chlorine with alcohol [ethanol], ether [diethyl ether], oil-forming gas [ethylene], and spirit of vinegar [acetone]]. Annalen der Pharmacie (in German). 1: 182–230. pp. 189–191 "Wirkung des Chlors auf Alkohol" [Reaction of Chlorine with alcohol [i.e., ethanol]] ; pp. 191–194 "Darstellung des Chloral[s]" [Preparation of chloral] ; pp. 195–198 "Eigenschaften des Chlorals" [Properties of chloral]. Liebig named chloral on p. 191. From p. 191: "Ich werde in dem Folgenden zeigen, dass bei einer vollkommnen Zersetzung des Alkohols das Chlor den Wasserstoff desselben abscheidet und diesen Wasserstoff ersetzt; es entsteht eine neue eigenthümliche Verbindung von Chlor, Kohlenstoff und Sauerstoff, welche ich, indem ich keinen zweckmässigeren Namen weiss, vorläufig Chloral nenne. Dieser Name ist dem Worte Aethal nachgebildet." (In the following, I will show that during a complete breakdown of ethanol, chlorine removes its [i.e., ethanol's] hydrogen and replaces this hydrogen; there arises a strange new compound of chlorine, carbon, and oxygen, which I — as I know no more appropriate name — provisionally name "chloral". This name is patterned after the word Aethal [i.e., ethyl].)
Gmelin, Leopold, ed. (1848). Handbuch der Chemie (in German). vol. 4 (4th ed.). Heidelberg, [Germany]: Karl Winter. pp. 893–897.
^Liebig passed dry chlorine gas through anhydrous ethanol for 11–13 days, until hydrogen chloride ceased to form. The product was dried by shaking with concentrated sulfuric acid, decanted over chalk, and then distilled. (Liebig, 1832), pp. 191–194.