While many pericyclic reactions proceed in a concerted fashion, the stepwise pathway is a distinct possibility. Fernandez, Sierra and Torres report on an interesting [8+2] cycloaddition that
is decidedly stepwise, confirmed through trapping of the intermediate zwitterion.1

The reaction of 1 with 2 was examined at M06-2x/6-311+G(d) (optimized geometries of the critical points are shown in Figure 1). The first transition state (TS1) has nitrogen acting as a nucleophile, attacking the carbonyl carbon of ketene to give 3. The barrier is 11.6 kcal mol-1, and 3 lies 0.7 kcal mol-1 above reactants. While 3 might be described with a tropyllium cation resonance structure, the ring is in fact non-planar and both the NICS(0) and NICS(1)zz values are positive. The ring is therefore antiaromatic, consistent with the endoergonicity of this step. Closure of the zwitterion through TS2 leads to the formal [8+2] product, with the barrier for this second step slightly lower than the barrier for the first step. Overall, the reaction is quite exothermic.

Scheme 1 (relative energies in kcal mol-1)





Figure 1. MO6-2x/6-311+G(d) optimized Structures of 3, 4, and the transition states leading to them (TS1 and TS2).

Experiments were performed with a variety of acyl chloride precursors to ketenes (Scheme 2), and along with the [8+2] product, a second product (5) incorporating 2 equivalents of ketene is found; in fact, if the R group is benzyloxy or t-butyl, 5 is the only observed product. This second product comes about via trapping of the intermediate 3. Mixing phenylketene with 4a (where the R group is phenyl) gives no reaction, thus precluding the intermediacy of 4 on the path to 5. MO6-2x computations of the trapping of 3 with phenylketenes indicates a barrier (TS3, see Figure 2) of 9.6 kcal mol-1, very close to the barrier height of the second TS for ring closure of the [8+2] pathway, supporting the competition between trapping of the intermediate and progress on to the [8+2] product.

Scheme 2.


Figure 2. MO6-2x/6-311+G(d) optimized Structures of TS3.


(1) Lage, M. L.; Fernandez, I.; Sierra, M. A.; Torres, M. R., "Trapping Intermediates in an [8 + 2] Cycloaddition Reaction with the Help of DFT Calculations," Org. Lett., 2011, ASAP, DOI: 10.1021/ol200910z


1: InChI=1/C8H6O/c9-7-6-8-4-2-1-3-5-8/h1-6H

2: InChI=1/C7H7N/c8-7-5-3-1-2-4-6-7/h1-6,8H

3: InChI=1/C15H13NO/c17-15(12-13-8-4-3-5-9-13)16-14-10-6-1-2-7-11-14/h1-12,17H/b15-12-/f/h17h,16H

4: InChI=1/C15H13NO/c17-15-14(11-7-3-1-4-8-11)12-9-5-2-6-10-13(12)16-15/h1-10,12,14H,(H,16,17)/t12-,14+/m1/s1/f/h16H