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A Unified Mechanistic View on the Morita−Baylis−Hillman Reaction: Computational and Experimental Investigations

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journal contribution
posted on 17.12.2010, 00:00 by David Cantillo, C. Oliver Kappe
The thermodynamic properties and reaction mechanism of the Morita−Baylis−Hillman (MBH) reaction have been investigated through experimental and computational techniques. The impossibility to accelerate this synthetically valuable transformation by increasing the reaction temperature has been rationalized by variable-temperature experiments and MP2 theoretical calculations of the reaction thermodynamics. An increase in temperature results in a switching of the equilibrium to the reactants occurring at even moderate temperature levels. The complex reaction mechanism for the MBH reaction has been investigated through an in-depth analysis of the suggested alternative pathways, using the M06-2X computational method. The results provided by this theoretical approach are in agreement with all the experimental/kinetic evidence such as reaction order, acceleration by protic species (methanol, phenol), and autocatalysis. In particular, the existing controversy about the character of the key proton transfer in the MBH reaction (Aggarwal versus McQuade pathways) has been resolved. Depending on the specific reaction conditions both suggested pathways are competing mechanisms, and depending on the amount of protic species and the reaction progress (early or late stage) either of the two mechanisms will be favored.