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Acc Chem Res. 2014 Apr 15;47(4):1041-53. doi: 10.1021/ar400222k. Epub 2014 Feb 24.

Transition-metal-catalyzed carbonylation reactions of olefins and alkynes: a personal account.

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Department Of Chemistry, Zhejiang Sci-Tech University , Xiasha Campus, Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province, 310018, People's Republic of China.


Carbon monoxide was discovered and identified in the 18th century. Since the first applications in industry 80 years ago, academic and industrial laboratories have broadly explored CO's use in chemical reactions. Today organic chemists routinely employ CO in organic chemistry to synthesize all kinds of carbonyl compounds. Despite all these achievements and a century of carbonylation catalysis, many important research questions and challenges remain. Notably, apart from academic developments, industry applies carbonylation reactions with CO on bulk scale. In fact, today the largest applications of homogeneous catalysis (regarding scale) are carbonylation reactions, especially hydroformylations. In addition, the vast majority of acetic acid is produced via carbonylation of methanol (Monsanto or Cativa process). The carbonylation of olefins/alkynes with nucleophiles, such as alcohols and amines, represent another important type of such reactions. In this Account, we discuss our work on various carbonylations of unsaturated compounds and related reactions. Rhodium-catalyzed isomerization and hydroformylation reactions of internal olefins provide straightforward access to higher value aldehydes. Catalytic hydroaminomethylations offer an ideal way to synthesize substituted amines and even heterocycles directly. More recently, our group has also developed so-called alternative metal catalysts based on iridium, ruthenium, and iron. What about the future of carbonylation reactions? CO is already one of the most versatile C1 building blocks for organic synthesis and is widely used in industry. However, because of CO's high toxicity and gaseous nature, organic chemists are often reluctant to apply carbonylations more frequently. In addition, new regulations have recently made the transportation of carbon monoxide more difficult. Hence, researchers will need to develop and more frequently use practical and benign CO-generating reagents. Apart from formates, alcohols, and metal carbonyls, carbon dioxide also offers interesting options. Industrial chemists seek easy to prepare catalysts and patent-free ligands/complexes. In addition, non-noble metal complexes will interest both academic and industrial researchers. The novel Lucite process for methyl methacrylate is an important example of an improved catalyst. This reaction makes use of a specific palladium/bisphosphine catalyst, which led to the successful implementation of the technology. More active and productive catalysts for related carbonylations of less reactive olefins would allow for other large scale applications of this methodology. From an academic point of view, researchers continue to look for selective reactions with more functionalized olefins. Finally, because of the volatility of simple metal carbonyl complexes, carbonylation reactions today remain a domain of homogeneous catalysis. The invention of more stable and recyclable heterogeneous catalysts or metal-free carbonylations (radical carbonylations) will be difficult, but could offer interesting challenges for young chemists.


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