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n. (context organic chemistry English) Any reaction in which an alkyl group is added to a molecule; used in the production of high-octane petroleum fuels.


Alkylation is the transfer of an alkyl group from one molecule to another. The alkyl group may be transferred as an alkyl carbocation, a free radical, a carbanion or a carbene (or their equivalents). An alkyl group is a piece of a molecule with the general formula CH, where n is the integer depicting the number of carbons linked together. For example, a methyl group (n = 1, CH) is a fragment of a methane molecule (CH). Alkylating agents utilize selective alkylation by adding the desired aliphatic carbon chain to the previously chosen starting molecule. This is one of many known chemical syntheses. Alkyl groups can also be removed in a process known as dealkylation.

In oil refining contexts, alkylation refers to a particular alkylation of isobutane with olefins. For upgrading of petroleum, alkylation produces synthetic C–C alkylate, which is a premium blending stock for gasoline.

In medicine, alkylation of DNA is used in chemotherapy to damage the DNA of cancer cells. Alkylation is accomplished with the class of drugs called alkylating antineoplastic agents.