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Acc Chem Res. 2002 Sep;35(9):706-16.

The chemistry of dimethyl carbonate.

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  • 1Dipartimento di Scienze Ambientali, Universit√† Ca' Foscari, Dorsoduro 2137-30123 Venezia, Italy.


Dimethyl carbonate (DMC) is a versatile compound that represents an attractive eco-friendly alternative to both methyl halides (or dimethyl sulfate) and phosgene for methylation and carbonylation processes, respectively. In fact, the reactivity of DMC is tunable: at T = 90 degrees C, methoxycarbonylations take place, whereas at higher reaction temperatures, methylation reactions are observed with a variety of nucleophiles. In the particular case of substrates susceptible to multiple alkylations (e.g., CH(2)-active compounds and primary amines), DMC allows unprecedented selectivity toward mono-C- and mono-N-methylation reactions. Nowadays produced by a clean process, DMC possesses properties of nontoxicity and biodegradability which makes it a true green reagent to use in syntheses that prevent pollution at the source. Moreover, DMC-mediated methylations are catalytic reactions that use safe solids (alkaline carbonates or zeolites), thereby avoiding the formation of undesirable inorganic salts as byproducts. The reactivity of other carbonates is reported as well: higher homologues of DMC (i.e., diethyl and dibenzyl carbonate), are excellent mono-C- and mono-N-alkylating agents, whereas asymmetrical methyl alkyl carbonates (ROCO(2)Me with R > or = C(3)) undergo methylation processes with a chemoselectivity up to 99%.

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