Date of Award

Spring 1941

Degree Type

Thesis - Restricted

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)



First Advisor

Heinrich, Herbert


Recent developments in the science of organic chemistry have aroused a keen interest in the revival of the Kolbe electrochemical mechanism for the synthesis of organic compounds. From a theoretical as well as from a practical standpoint, the importance of intensive research in connection with the efficient production of pure synthetic hydrocarbons, especially those of high molecular weight, can scarcely be overestimated. While it is true that natural crude oil may be separated into certain portions having nearly constant boiling points by the method of fractional distillation, it is highly improbable that any fraction thus obtained is a pure compound. Hence, it is very difficult to identify and to arrive at a knowledge of the structural formulae of the various constituents. In the Kolbe electrochemical method, on the other hand, when a fatty acid of comparatively low molecular weight is electrolyzed a pure synthetic hydrocarbon of comparatively high molecular weight is formed by the combination of two negative ions of the acid and its molecular structure can at once be determined. With greater refinement in the mechanism of engines such as increasing piston speed and higher pressure in bearings the problem of the production of suitable hydrocarbons has arisen in more acute form. Then, too, since hydrocarbons can serve as the raw materials of a number of the newer chemical industries, the various hydrocarbons are likely to become of increasing importance. Since the Kolbe synthetic reaction seems to have been but meagerly investigated in its application to the higher fatty acids, this research is directed toward extending such investigations.