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Even other catalytic reactions that lead to olefin products such as the Heck reaction rely on the preactivation of one of the substrates, for instance with a halide leaving group. However, this preactivation results in the generation of a halide byproduct in the waste stream. Even in this comparison, olefin metathesis may be the most atom-efficient option, covering another of the twelve green principles: convert as many reactant atoms into product atoms as you can.

Over the years, olefin metathesis has proved to be a useful synthetic tool in improving reaction productivity, reducing the amount of waste while also increasing the yield of the desirable compound; or opening new reaction pathways that were previously considered impossible. Olefin metathesis opens up new possibilities for greener methods of chemical synthesis with the added bonus of highly active catalysts and potentially reduced energy consumption or carbon footprint.

Sometimes synthetic chemistry does not do what you want. Any organic chemist will tell you that when pressed on the viability of chemical reactions. This can be caused by the favoured submission of side reactions, or by the fact that the reaction in question does not lead to the desired product in a high enough yield.

Of course, alternative routes for the reaction can be devised. One such alternative could involve additional steps that approach the problem from a different angle.

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However, this workaround could prove to be an unnecessary complication that could easily be avoided. Instead, by using olefin metathesis catalysts, new synthetic routes for substrates can potentially be devised. One example is in the synthesis of multi-functional polycyclic lactams which have potential applications in medicinal chemistry. This illustrates just one example of how a complex polycyclic lactam can be synthesised in a single high-yielding two-step process, the second of which involves a ring-closing metathesis reaction.

Here, robust metathesis catalysts demonstrate their aptitude for achieving fundamentally difficult reactions on strained and complex reagents. Furthermore, the catalyst used here is versatile, tolerating various functional groups, including tertiary amines. Where previous synthetic methods had relegated the lactam product to a low concentration side-product, ring-closing metathesis now forms it as the major product. Cross-metathesis reactions, where two unconnected alkenes undergo metathesis, have received a somewhat notorious reputation as uncontrollable reactions.

While this was certainly true for the first-generation of metathesis catalysts, modern innovations have overcome this problem by fine-tuning the reaction conditions and ligands. By changing properties such as the steric bulk — the physical space occupied by the ligand — the catalyst complex can influence the reaction pathway directing product formation. Changing such properties also has a strong effect on the yield of a reaction.

Ring-closing metathesis

To illustrate the effect various catalysts have on a given reaction, a series of competitive studies have been performed by US researchers with a variety of metathesis catalysts. Comparative yields for the cross-metathesis reaction using two different Grubbs catalysts. In this case, the smaller N-heterocyclic carbene ligand directs the reaction down a specific pathway, favouring the formation of the desired product.


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In addition to improving yields, olefin metathesis can also potentially offer synthetic solutions to those reactions where the stereoselectivity — the precise direction of chemical bonds — must be controlled. Reactions that produce a mixture of compounds require extensive removal techniques, typically involving wasteful quantities of solvent, in addition to reducing the total volume of useful compound synthesised.


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Like many catalytic methods, metathesis catalysts can influence the precise stereochemistry of a given reaction. In a manner similar to the previous example, the steric influence of ligands can orientate reagents into specific conformations that dictate precise bond formation.

In the case illustrated below, cross metathesis reactions are successfully used to directly synthesising the cis -alkene, commonly considered to be energetically unfavourable compared to a trans -alkene. Products such as these have proved useful for a variety of applications, including in the present case, as precursor molecules for insect sex pheromones that are used to deter insects and protect crops. Underpinning both processes are the fundamental properties of the catalyst.

By designing and screening various catalysts with a wide variety of different functional ligands, the reaction in question can be influenced to produce a higher yield of the desired chemical product, and unnecessary by-product formation is mitigated.

Organic Chemistry II - Ring Closing Metathesis

The environmental impact of the chemical industry has recently received attention across multiple fronts, for example the impact of solvent use on sustainability. Nowadays, industries and institutions must endeavour to ensure that any process is not just cost-effective and efficient, but also environmentally friendly. The examples discussed here illustrate just three cases where metathesis catalysts have been applied in academic research — but industrial applications are also viable. The challenge then lies in creating and optimising a plant-scale level of production in the most productive and sustainable manner.

New catalyst applications are continuously being uncovered by researchers. One example, recently published in Polymer Chemistry, applied Umicore catalysts to facilitate and simplify the previously difficult process of recycling natural rubber, all made possible through the process of metathesis. Sustainability and green chemical practices are the pillars that build a brighter tomorrow.

At Umicore, these pillars form an integral component of working with commercial and academic collaborators to create a more sustainable world. With a world that is increasingly reliant on the production of chemical materials, any process developer must continuously ask the question: How can we reduce the amount of waste or optimise conditions necessary to conduct our reaction? The answer lies in working collaboratively with the scientists who can provide the expertise in overcoming or avoiding reaction bottlenecks and making any chemical reaction sustainable, be it optimising catalyst loadings to reduce potential waste metals, or investigating potential alternative reaction routes that could be achieved using catalysts such as the Umicore—Grubbs portfolio.

Through supplying quality catalysts at the quantity needed for industrial applications, the possibilities are, once again, endless. The carbon—carbon bond is ubiquitous and universal. Its extensive utility will make it an essential part of chemistry in the years to come, and the metathesis reaction could help bring it here in a greener way.

An eye-opening visit to a waste water treatment works uncovers the surprising value in sewage. Hayley Bennett reports. Join us on 29 October at 4pm to learn about the fundamentals of photoredox catalysts for their application in organic synthesis. Published by the Royal Society of Chemistry. Registered charity number: Site powered by Webvision. Advances in the synthesis of a range of marine polyether natural products are presented, and various strategic approaches to the bridged pyran-macrocycles neopeltolide and kendomycin are discussed. Finally, the synthesis of a range of biologically active, cyclic ether-based non-natural products is described.

This review describes the use of intramolecular olefin metathesis procedures for the synthesis of five- to eleven-membered lactones, with emphasis on the literature from the last five years. The application of diene ring-closing metathesis to the synthesis of natural lactones is discussed, including highlights of the reaction coupled to new synthetic tools.

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Topics in Heterocyclic Chemistry

Metathesis is one of the most powerful methods to access amine-containing heterocycles. However, the ability of amine to coordinate to the metal centre of almost all metathesis catalysts may limit the efficiency of this strategy. To date, the main approach to overcome these unwanted coordination events has been based on deactivation of the nitrogen atom by an electron-withdrawing protecting group. Basic amines are nevertheless not incompatible with metathesis reactions as shown by numerous recent examples described in the literature. The purpose of this review is to provide an overview of successful metathesis reactions performed with amine-containing substrates to access azacycles.

The focus will be made on the different parameters that may favor the metathesis process including steric effects, amine basicity, and the nature of the catalyst. The use of metathesis for the synthesis of lactams has become very important in the last decade. This reaction allows the synthesis of very diverse lactam-containing compounds: from simple building blocks to refined macrolactams or polycyclic systems.

Synthesis of Heterocycles by Metathesis Reactions | SpringerLink

The strategic deployment of such reactions for the synthesis of lactams will be described in this chapter, with a discussion on factors that govern the metathesis reaction. This review surveys developments in the field of ring-closing metathesis and cross-metathesis reactions applied to the synthesis of constrained amino acids, peptides, and peptidomimetics. Examples, in which metathesis is used as one of the synthetic tools to arrive at the desired peptide molecules as well as examples that describe in-depth optimized metathesis protocols, will be discussed.

Currently, metathesis reactions are well-accepted synthetic tools within the field of peptide chemistry and provide peptides unprecedented properties like conformational, metabolic, and chemical stability and improved bioactivity. Metathesis is one of the most efficient methodologies for the synthesis of large heterocycles.

The wide variety of densely functionalized natural structures containing macrocycles and the interest of other nonnatural macrocycles as potential drugs or useful structures for supramolecular chemistry has triggered the synthetic efforts en route to these structures.

This chapter is an overview of successful metathesis reactions, both diene ring-closing metathesis RCM and ring-closing alkyne metathesis RCAM as the key steps in the construction of large heterocycles 12 or more members excluding peptides.