Trimethylaluminium is one of the simplest examples of an organoaluminium compound. Despite its name it has the formula Al2(CH3)6 (abbreviated as Al2Me6 or TMA), as it exists as a dimer. This colorless liquid is pyrophoric. It is an industrially important compound, closely related to triethylaluminium.
Trimethylaluminum; aluminium trimethyl; aluminum trimethyl
3D model (JSmol)
CompTox Dashboard (EPA)
|Molar mass||144.17 g/mol|
72.09 g/mol (C3H9Al)
|Melting point||15 °C (59 °F; 288 K)|
|Boiling point||125–130 °C (257–266 °F; 398–403 K) |
Heat capacity (C)
Std enthalpy of
Gibbs free energy (ΔfG˚)
|GHS Signal word||Danger|
|H250, H260, H314|
|P222, P223, P231+232, P280, P370+378, P422|
|NFPA 704 (fire diamond)|
|Flash point||−17.0 °C (1.4 °F; 256.1 K) |
Except where otherwise noted, data are given for materials in their standard state (at 25 °C [77 °F], 100 kPa).
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Structure and bondingEdit
The structure and bonding in Al2R6 and diborane are analogous (R = alkyl). In Al2Me6, the Al-C(terminal) and Al-C(bridging) distances are 1.97 and 2.14 Å, respectively. The Al center is tetrahedral. The carbon atoms of the bridging ethyl groups are each suounded by five neighbors: three hydrogen atoms and two aluminium atoms. The methyl groups interchange readily intramolecularly. At higher temperatures, the dimer cracks into monomeric AlMe3.
TMA is prepared via a two-step process that can be summarized as follows:
- 2 Al + 6 CH3Cl + 6 Na → Al2(CH3)6 + 6 NaCl
Starting with the invention of Ziegler-Natta catalysis, organoaluminium compounds have a prominent role in the production of polyolefins, such as polyethylene and polypropylene. Methylaluminoxane, which is produced from TMA, is an activator for many transition metal catalysts.
TMA is also used in semiconductor fabrication to deposit thin film, high-k dielectrics such as Al2O3 via the processes of chemical vapor deposition or atomic layer deposition. TMA is the preferred precursor for metalorganic vapour phase epitaxy (MOVPE) of aluminium-containing compound semiconductors, such as AlAs, AlN, AlP, AlSb, AlGaAs, AlInGaAs, AlInGaP, AlGaN, AlInGaN, AlInGaNP, etc. Criteria for TMA quality focus on (a) elemental impurities, (b) oxygenated and organic impurities.
In deposition processes very similar to semiconductor processing, TMA is used to deposit thin film, low-k (non-absorbing) dielectric layer stacks with Al2O3 via the processes of chemical vapor deposition or atomic layer deposition. The Al2O3 provides excellent surface passivation of p-doped silicon surfaces. The Al2O3 layer is typically the bottom layer with multiple silicon nitride (SixNy) layers for capping.
Trimethylaluminium is hydrolyzed readily, even dangerously:
- AlMe3 + 1.5 H2O → 0.5 Al2O3 + 3 CH4
Under controlled conditions, the reaction can be stopped to give methylaluminoxane:
- AlMe3 + H2O → 1/n [AlMeO]n + 2 CH4
- 2 AlMe3 + 2 HNMe2 → [AlMe2NMe2]2 + 2 CH4
Reactions with metal chloridesEdit
TMA/metal halide reactions have emerged as reagents in organic synthesis. Tebbe's reagent, which is used for the methylenation of esters and ketones, is prepared from TMA and titanocene dichloride. In combination with 20 to 100 mol % Cp2ZrCl2 (zirconocene dichloride), the (CH3)2Al-CH3 adds "across" alkynes to give vinyl aluminum species that are useful in organic synthesis in a reaction known as carboalumination.
As for other "electron-deficient" compounds, trimethylaluminium gives adducts R3N.AlMe3. The Lewis acid properties of AlMe3 have been quantified. The enthalpy data show that AlMe3 is a hard acid and its acid parameters in the ECW model are EA =8.66 and CA = 3.68.
TMA is a source of methyl nucleophiles, akin to methyl lithium, but less reactive. It reacts with ketones to give, after a hydrolytic workup, tertiary alcohols.
Trimethylaluminium is pyrophoric, reacting violently with air and water.
- Sigma-Aldrich Co., Trimethylaluminum. Retrieved on 2014-05-05.
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