Sodium aluminum hydride (SAH), with the chemical formula NaAlH4, is commonly known as sodium alanate. It is a white colored solid crystal, used as a multipurpose reducing agent extensively for the reduction of non-functional groups such as amides, esters, aldehydes, nitriles, and ketones.
SAH is produced by reacting aluminum chloride with sodium hydride in tetrahydrofuran (THF). It is easily soluble in solvents such as 1.2-dimethoxyethane (DME) and THF. SAH solution is obtained by dissolving it in DME or THF, where THF is the preferred choice.
SAH reduces almost every kind of functional groups as efficiently as lithium aluminum hydride and diisobutylaluminium hydride to certain extend, which are strong reducing agents and are being used on a large scale in organic chemistry. The reduction reactions carried out by SAH can be associated with slight increase in temperature in order to achieve adequate results, this in turn can effectively help in reducing the cooling costs involved in reactions at commercial scale.
SAH is used for the preparation of other chemicals by the process of reduction. It carries out efficient reduction compared to other reducing agents such as sodium borohydride. SAH has weaker and polar Al-H bonds compared to the B-H bonds of sodium borohydride.
The low cost and easy handling of SAH makes it a suitable alternative to lithium aluminum hydride in organic chemistry in the present day scenario.
SAH has recently achieved lot of recognition as an appropriate chemical for the purpose of storing hydrogen in fuel cells by incorporating titanium as a catalyst. Storage of hydrogen requires high pressure tank and/or the use of a solid substance in which hydrogen molecule can be easily absorbed. SAH satisfies the second criteria efficiently. Hence, it is widely used for storing hydrogen gas.
The SAH market is expected to grow in the near future due to its usage in applications which are essential in industrial processes.
SAH is highly inflammable and is vulnerable to moisture, hence does not react in dry air when placed in normal room temperature. Special care must be taken for its storage and handling as it catches fire instantly once it is exposed to or when dissolved in water. SAH is toxic and causes acute effects such as irritation of the eyes and skin. It can even lead to coughing or sneezing if it is inhaled.
The usage of SAH in the market seems to overpower its drawbacks such as its toxicity and the storage precautions, leading to a steady growth of the market currently.
The market for SAH is spread mostly in Asia Pacific, North America, and Europe. The use of SAH as a reagent for the synthesis of various compounds is an important factor for its market to flourish in these regions. The rate of industrialization is high as these regions have more developed as well as developing countries. China is one of the leading producers as well as consumers of sodium aluminum hydride currently owing to the presence of its high end-use applications.
In Middle East and Asia, the utilization of SAH for various applications is not as much as other regions due to the use of compounds which are similar to SAH (e.g., lithium aluminum hydride, sodium borohydride, etc.).
One of the major players operating in the market of sodium aluminum hydride is Albemarle Corporation headquartered in the U.S.
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