Dynamic Path Bifurcation in the Beckmann Reaction: Support from Kinetic Analyses

The reactions of oximes to amides, known as the Beckmann rearrangement, may undergo fragmentation to form carbocations + nitriles when the migrating groups have reasonable stability as cations. The reactions of oxime sulfonates of 1-substituted-phenyl-2-propanone derivatives (7-X) and related substrates (8-X, 9a-X) in aqueous CH3CN gave both rearrangement products (amides) and fragmentation products (alcohols), the ratio of which depends on the system; the reactions of 7-X gave amides predominantly, whereas 9a-X yielded alcohols as the major product. The logk–logk plots between the systems gave excellent linear correlations with slopes of near unity. The results support the occurrence of path bifurcation after the rate-determining TS of the Beckmann rearrangement/fragmentation reaction, which has previously been proposed on the basis of molecular dynamics simulations. It was concluded that path-bifurcation phenomenon could be more common than thought and that a reactivity-selectivity argument based on the traditional TS theory may not always be applicable even to a well-known textbook organic reaction.