American Chemical Society
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Dehydrogenative Synthesis of Carbamates from Formamides and Alcohols Using a Pincer-Supported Iron Catalyst

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journal contribution
posted on 2021-08-11, 20:29 authored by Tanya M. Townsend, Wesley H. Bernskoetter, Nilay Hazari, Brandon Q. Mercado
We report that the pincer-ligated iron complex (iPrPNP)­Fe­(H)­(CO) [1, iPrPNP = N­(CH2CH2PiPr2)2] is an active catalyst for the dehydrogenative synthesis of N-alkyl- and N-aryl-substituted carbamates from formamides and alcohols. The reaction is compatible with industrially relevant N-alkyl formamides, as well as N-aryl formamides, and 1°, 2°, and benzylic alcohols. Mechanistic studies indicate that the first step in the reaction is the dehydrogenation of the formamide to a transient isocyanate by 1. The isocyanate then reacts with the alcohol to generate the carbamate. However, in a competing reaction, the isocyanate undergoes a reversible cycloaddition with 1 to generate an off-cycle species, which is the resting state in catalysis. Stoichiometric experiments indicate that high temperatures are required in catalysis to facilitate the release of the isocyanate from the cycloaddition product. We also identified several other off-cycle processes that occur in catalysis, such as the 1,2-addition of the formamide or alcohol substrate across the Fe–N bond of 1. It has already been demonstrated that the transient isocyanate generated from dehydrogenation of the formamide can be trapped with amines to form ureas and, in principle, the isocyanate could also be trapped with thiols to form thiocarbamates. Competition experiments indicate that trapping of the transient isocyanate with amines to produce ureas is faster than trapping with an alcohol to produce carbamates and thus ureas can be formed selectively in the presence of alcohols. In contrast, thiols bind irreversibly to the iron catalyst through 1,2 addition across the Fe–N bond of 1, and it is not possible to produce thiocarbamates. Overall, our mechanistic studies provide general guidelines for facilitating dehydrogenative coupling reactions using 1 and related catalysts.