Ji, Pengju (2011) Kinetics and Mechanisms of Organic Reactions in Liquid Ammonia. Doctoral thesis, University of Huddersfield.

The rate constants for the reactions of a variety of nucleophiles reacting with substituted benzyl chlorides in liquid ammonia (LNH3) have been determined. To fully interpret the associated linear free-energy relationships, the ionisation constants of phenols ions in liquid ammonia were obtained using UV spectra. These equilibrium constants are the product of those for ion-pair formation and dissociation to the free ions, which can be separated by evaluating the effect of added ammonium ions. There is a linear relationship between the pKa of phenols in liquid ammonia and those in water of slope 1.68. Aminium ions exist in their unprotonated free base form in liquid ammonia and their ionisation constants could not be determined by NMR. The rates of solvolysis of substituted benzyl chlorides in liquid ammonia at 25 oC show a Hammett ρ of zero, having little or no dependence upon ring substituents, which is in stark contrast with the hydrolysis rates of substituted benzyl halides in water, which vary 107 fold. The rate of substitution of benzyl chloride by substituted phenoxide ions is first order in the concentration of the nucleophile indicative of a SN2 process, and the dependence of the rate constants on the pKa of the phenol in liquid ammonia generates a Brønsted βnuc = 0.40. Contrary to the solvolysis reaction, the reaction of phenoxide ion with 4-substituted benzyl chlorides gives a Hammett ρ = 1.1, excluding the 4-methoxy derivative, which shows the normal positive deviation. The second order rate constants for the substitution of benzyl chlorides by neutral and anionic amines show a single Brønsted βnuc = 0.21 (based on the aqueous pKa of amine), but their dependence on the substituent in substituted benzyl chlorides varies with a Hammett ρ of 0 for neutral amines, similar to that seen for solvolysis, whereas that for amine anions is 0.93, similar to that seen for phenoxide ion.

The rates of aromatic nucleophilic substitution reactions in liquid ammonia are much faster than those in protic solvents indicating that liquid ammonia behaves like a typical dipolar aprotic solvent in its solvent effects on organic reactions. Nitrofluorobenzenes (NFBs) readily undergo solvolysis in liquid ammonia and 2-NFB is about 30 times more reactive than the 4-substituted isomer. Oxygen nucleophiles, such as alkoxide and phenoxide ions, readily displace fluorine of 4-NFB in liquid ammonia to give the corresponding substitution product with little or no competing solvolysis product. Using the pKa of the substituted phenols in liquid ammonia, the Brønsted βnuc for the reaction of 4-NFB with para-substituted phenoxides is 0.91, indicative of the removal of most of the negative charge on the oxygen anion and complete bond formation in the transition state and therefore suggests that the decomposition of the Meisenheimer σ-intermediate is rate limiting. The aminolysis of 4-NFB occurs without general base catalysis by the amine and the second order rate constants generate a Brønsted βnuc of 0.36 using either the pKa of aminium ion in acetonitrile or in water, which is also interpreted in terms of rate limiting breakdown of Meisenheimer σ-intermediate. Nitrobenzene and diazene are formed as unusual products from the reaction between sodium azide and 4-NFB which may be due to the initially formed 4-nitroazidobenzene decomposing to give a nitrene intermediate, which may dimerise and be trapped by ammonia to give the unstable hydrazine which then yields nitrobenzene.

We have developed a method for the amination of aryl halides in liquid ammonia using copper (I) catalysis which enables direct synthesis of a number of primary amines with excellent yields. This method does not require strong base and ligands as additives and the amination in liquid ammonia has exclusive selectivity for the formation of primary amines, even under relative higher temperature. The amount of catalyst required for the reaction is relatively lower than that generally used, and the convenience of products separation with liquid ammonia as reaction medium indicate its potential industrial application. The preliminary mechanistic investigation indicates that the rate of the amination is first order dependence on the concentration of copper (I) catalyst, and the formation of triamminecopper (I)-aryl ring intermediate is probably the rate limiting step in liquid ammonia. Due to strong coordination of solvent molecules to the copper (I) ion, the kinetics of the reaction are generally insensitive to the addition of other conventional ligands in liquid ammonia.

The copper (I) catalysed 1,3-Huisgen cycloaddition reaction of azide and alkynes (CuIAAC) in liquid ammonia requires less catalyst than those in conventionally used solvents. The excellent yield, exclusive selectivity, and most importantly, the ease of separation of the product indicate the potential advantages of using liquid ammonia as the solvent for this reaction. The preliminary mechanistic investigation suggests that CuIAAC reaction in liquid ammonia is a stepwise process with the initial formation of copper (I)-acetylide ion complex, followed by its combination with copper (I) coordinated azide.

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