A computed mechanistic pathway for the formation of an amide from an acid and an amine in non-polar solution.

November 12th, 2014

In London, one has the pleasures of attending occasional one day meetings at the Burlington House, home of the Royal Society of Chemistry. On November 5th this year, there was an excellent meeting on the topic of Challenges in Catalysisand you can see the speakers and (some of) their slides here. One talk on the topic of Direct amide formation – the issues, the art, the industrial application by Dave Jackson caught my interest. He asked whether an amide could be formed directly from a carboxylic acid and an amine without the intervention of an explicit catalyst. The answer involved noting that the carboxylic acid was itself a catalyst in the process, and a full mechanistic exploration of this aspect can be found in an article published in collaboration with Andy Whiting’s group at Durham.[1] My after-thoughts in the pub centered around the recollection that I had written some blog posts about the reaction between hydroxylamine and propanone. Might there be any similarity between the two mechanisms?

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References

  1. H. Charville, D.A. Jackson, G. Hodges, A. Whiting, and M.R. Wilson, "The Uncatalyzed Direct Amide Formation Reaction - Mechanism Studies and the Key Role of Carboxylic Acid H-Bonding", European Journal of Organic Chemistry, vol. 2011, pp. 5981-5990, 2011. http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/ejoc.201100714

The solvation of ion pairs.

November 6th, 2014

Solvolytic mechanisms are amongst the oldest studied, but reproducing their characteristics using computational methods has been a challenging business. This post was inspired by reading Steve Bachrach’s post, itself alluding to this aspect in the title “Computationally handling ion pairs”. It references this recent article on the topic[1] in which the point is made that reproducing the features of both contact and solvent-separated ion pairs needs a model comprising discrete solvent molecules (in this case four dichloromethane units) along with a continuum model.

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References

  1. T. Hosoya, T. Takano, P. Kosma, and T. Rosenau, "Theoretical Foundation for the Presence of Oxacarbenium Ions in Chemical Glycoside Synthesis", J. Org. Chem., vol. 79, pp. 7889-7894, 2014. http://dx.doi.org/10.1021/jo501012s

Blasts from the past. A personal Web presence: 1993-1996.

November 1st, 2014

Egon Willighagen recently gave a presentation at the RSC entitled “The Web – what is the issue” where he laments how little uptake of web technologies as a “channel for communication of scientific knowledge and data” there is in chemistry after twenty years or more. It caused me to ponder what we were doing with the web twenty years ago. Our HTTP server started in August 1993, and to my knowledge very little content there has been deleted (it’s mostly now just hidden). So here are some ancient pages which whilst certainly not examples of how it should be done nowadays, give an interesting historical perspective. In truth, there is not much stuff that is older out there!

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More simple experiments with crystal data. The pyramidalisation of nitrogen.

November 1st, 2014

We are approaching 1 million recorded crystal structures (actually, around 716,000 in the CCDC and just over 300,00 in COD). One delight with having this wealth of information is the simple little explorations that can take just a minute or so to do. This one was sparked by my helping a colleague update a set of interactive lecture demos dealing with stereochemistry. Three of the examples included molecules where chirality originates in stereogenic centres with just three attached groups. An example might be a sulfoxide, for which the priority rule is to assign the lone pair present with atomic number zero. The issue then arises as to whether this centre is configurationally stable, i.e. does it invert in an umbrella motion slowly or quickly.  My initial intention was to see if crystal structures could cast any light at all on this aspect.

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WATOC2014 Conference report. Emergent themes.

October 9th, 2014

This second report highlights two “themes”, or common ideas that seem to emerge spontaneously from diversely different talks. Most conferences do have them.

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WATOC2014 Conference report. Concepts for Organizing Chemical Knowledge

October 6th, 2014

I am attending a conference. Plenaries at such events can sometimes provide interesting pointers on things to come (and sometimes they simply point to things past). At WATOC2014 in Santiago Chile, the first plenary was by Paul Ayers with the impressive title “Concepts for organising chemical knowledge” which certainly sounds as if it is pointing forward!

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Electronic notebooks: a peek into the future?

September 16th, 2014

ELNs (electronic laboratory notebooks) have been around for a long time in chemistry, largely of course due to the needs of the pharmaceutical industries. We did our first extensive evaluation probably at least 15 years ago, and nowadays there are many on the commercial market, with a few more coming from opensource communities. Here I thought I would bring to your attention the potential of an interesting new entrant from the open community.

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One molecule, one identifier: Viewing molecular files from a digital repository using metadata standards.

September 8th, 2014

In the beginning (taken here as prior to ~1980) libraries held five-year printed consolidated indices of molecules, organised by formula or name (Chemical abstracts). This could occupy about 2m of shelf space for each five years. And an equivalent set of printed volumes from the Beilstein collection. Those of us who needed to track down information about molecules prior to ~1980 spent many an afternoon (or indeed a whole day) in the libraries thumbing through these weighty volumes. Fast forward to the present, when (closed) commercial databases such as SciFinder, Reaxys and CCDC offer information online for around 100 million molecules (CAS indicates it has 89,506,154 today for example). These have been joined by many open databases (e.g. PubChem). All these sources of molecular information have their own way of accessing individual entries, and the wonderful program Jmol (nowadays JSmol) has several of these custom interfaces programmed in. Here I describe some work we have recently done[1] on how one might generalise access to an individual molecule held in what is now called a digital data repository.

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References

  1. M.J. Harvey, N.J. Mason, and H.S. Rzepa, "Digital Data Repositories in Chemistry and Their Integration with Journals and Electronic Notebooks", Journal of Chemical Information and Modeling, vol. 54, pp. 2627-2635, 2014. http://dx.doi.org/10.1021/ci500302p

Computationally directed synthesis: 2,3-dimethyl-2-butene + NO(+).

September 6th, 2014

In the previous posts, I explored reactions which can be flipped between two potential (stereochemical) outcomes. This triggered a memory from Alex, who pointed out this article from 1999[1] in which the nitrosonium cation as an electrophile can have two outcomes A or B when interacting with the electron-rich 2,3-dimethyl-2-butene. NO NMR evidence clearly pointed to the π-complex A as being formed, and not the cyclic nitrosonium species B (X=Al4-). If you are wondering where you have seen an analogy for the latter, it would be the species formed when bromine reacts with an alkene (≡ Br+, X=Br- or Br3-). The two structures are shown below[1] tetramethyletylene-NO+ Since the topic that sparked this concerned pericyclic reactions, it seemed possible that if it had been formed, species B would immediately undergo a pericyclic electrocyclic reaction to form the rather odd-looking cation C, which might then be trapped by eg X(-) to form the nitrone D. So this post is an exploration of what happens when X-NO (X= CF3COO, trifluoracetate) interacts with 2,3-dimethyl-2-butene, as an illustration of what can be achieved nowadays from about 2 days worth of dry-lab computation as a prelude to e.g. an experiment in the wet-lab (it would take a little more than two days to achieve the latter I suspect). Hence computationally directed synthesis. The model is set up as ωB97XD/6-311G(d,p)/SCRF=chloroform. A transition state is located[2] and the resulting IRC (below) [3] does not quite have the outcome the above scheme would suggest. NOa NOe NOg Neither A nor B is formed; instead it is the tetrahedral species E, which is ~15 kcal/mol endothermic. NOaa I should immediately point out that this is not inconsistent with the formation of A as previously characterised[1]. That is because this experiment was conducted with a non-nucleophilic counter-anion (X=Al4-), whereas in the computational simulation above, we have a nucleophilic anion (X= CF3CO2-). What a difference the inclusion of a counter-ion in the calculation can have! The barrier however (~35 kcal/mol) is a little too high for a facile thermal reaction. In the second of this two-stage reaction, E now ring-opens to form the anticipated D[4] with quite a small barrier of ~6 kcal/mol, but a highly exothermic outcome. I ask this question about it; can this still be described as a pericyclic process? (there is some analogy to the electrocyclic ring opening of a cyclopropyl tosylate). NObNObe So what are the conclusions? Well, because of the rather high initial barrier, the alkene will need activation (by electron donating substituents, perhaps OMe) for the reaction to become more viable. But if it works, it could be an interesting synthesis of nitrones (I have not yet searched to find out if the reaction is actually known).

References

  1. G.I. Borodkin, I.R. Elanov, A.M. Genaev, M.M. Shakirov, and V.G. Shubin, "Interaction in olefin–NO+ complexes: structure and dynamics of the NO+–2,3-dimethyl-2-butene complex", Mendeleev Communications, vol. 9, pp. 83-84, 1999. http://dx.doi.org/10.1070/MC1999v009n02ABEH000995
  2. Henry S Rzepa., "C8H12F3NO3", 2014. http://dx.doi.org/10.14469/ch/24979
  3. Henry S. Rzepa., "Gaussian Job Archive for C8H12F3NO3", 2014. http://dx.doi.org/10.6084/m9.figshare.1162797
  4. Henry S. Rzepa., "Gaussian Job Archive for C8H12F3NO3", 2014. http://dx.doi.org/10.6084/m9.figshare.1162676

Full circle. Stereoisomeric transition states for [1,4] pericyclic shifts.

August 18th, 2014

This post, the fifth in the series, comes full circle. I started off by speculating how to invert the stereochemical outcome of an electrocyclic reaction by inverting a bond polarity. This led to finding transition states for BOTH outcomes with suitable substitution, and then seeking other examples. Migration in homotropylium cation was one such, with the “allowed/retention” transition state proving a (little) lower in activation energy than the “forbidden/inversion” path. Here, I show that with two electrons less, the stereochemical route indeed inverts.mob-inva First, a [1,4] alkyl shift with inversion at the migrating carbon (ωB97XD/6-311G(d,p)/SCRF=chloroform); as a four-electron process, this is the “allowed” route.[1] mob-inva The “forbidden” route corresponds to retention of configuration at the migrating carbon.[2] mob-retb The barriers for each process can be seen below from the IRCs. That for inversion is ~4.5 kcal/mol lower than retention. This nicely transposes the values for the six-electron homologue shown in the previous post. mob-invmob-ret There is one more nugget of insight that can be extracted. The start/end-point for the six-electron process (homotropylium cation) was, as the name implies, homoaromatic. Now, with a four-electron system we also have an inverse. Nominally, we should now end with homo-antiaromaticity (but see [3]). But antiaromaticity is avoided whenever possible, and so the homoaromatic bond observed in homotropylium is not formed. It resolutely remains a σ-bond (1.48Å) thus sequestering two electrons, and the remaining two electrons simply form a delocalised allyl cation. With the six-electron homotropylium, reactant/product were stabilised by that additional (homo)aromaticity, thus inducing a relatively high barrier. With the four-electron system here, no such reactant/product stabilisation occurs, and hence the reaction barriers are now significantly lower. A rather neat pedagogic example.

References

  1. Henry S. Rzepa., "Gaussian Job Archive for C8H11(1+)", 2014. http://dx.doi.org/10.6084/m9.figshare.1142175
  2. Henry S. Rzepa., "Gaussian Job Archive for C8H11(1+)", 2014. http://dx.doi.org/10.6084/m9.figshare.1142174
  3. C.S.M. Allan, and H.S. Rzepa, "Chiral Aromaticities. A Topological Exploration of Möbius Homoaromaticity", J. Chem. Theory Comput., vol. 4, pp. 1841-1848, 2008. http://dx.doi.org/10.1021/ct8001915