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Silylation is the introduction of a substituted silyl group to a molecule. The process is the basis of organosilicon chemistry. Alcohols, carboxylic acids, amines, thiols, and phosphates can be silylated. The process involves the replacement of a proton with a trialkylsilyl group, typically trimethylsilyl (-SiMe3). Generally the substrate is deprotonated with a suitable strong base followed by treatment with a silyl chloride (e.g. trimethylsilyl chloride). Often strong bases such butyl lithium or a Grignard reagent are used, as illustrated by the synthesis of a trimethylsilyl ethers as protecting groups from an alcohol.

The introduction of a silyl group(s) gives derivatives of enhanced volatility, making the derivatives suitable for analysis by gas chromatography and electron-impact mass spectrometry (EI-MS). For EI-MS, the silyl derivatives give more favorable diagnostic fragmentation patterns of use in structure investigations, or characteristic ions of use in trace analyses employing selected ion monitoring and related techniques.