Houk and Doubleday have a nice follow-up study1 to their previous MD study2 of 1,3-dipolar cycloadditions, which I posted on here. They report on the cycloaddition of either acetylene or ethylene to 9 different 1,3-dipoles. Continuing on Houk’s recent thread of looking at distortion energies to attain the TS, they note that a sizable fraction (often over 50%) of the distortion energy is associated with bending the X-Y-Z bond of the dipole, consistent with their earlier work suggesting the importance of this vibration in attaining and crossing the TS. What’s new in this paper is the extensive MD studies, with trajectory studies of all 18 reactions. These revealed again the importance of vibrational energy in this X-Y-Z bending mode in crossing the TS. They also noted the role of translational energy, and the relationship between translational vs. vibrational energy depending on the early/late nature of the TS. Their final point was that the lifetime of any diradical or diradical-like intermediate is so short, less than the time of a bond vibration, so that one can discount any diradical participation. The reaction is concerted.


(1) Xu, L.; Doubleday, C. E.; Houk, K. N., "Dynamics of 1,3-Dipolar Cycloadditions: Energy Partitioning of Reactants and Quantitation of Synchronicity," J. Am. Chem. Soc., 2010, ASAP, DOI: /10.1021/ja909372f

(2) Xu, L.; Doubleday, C. E.; Houk, K. N., "Dynamics of 1,3-Dipolar Cycloaddition Reactions of Diazonium Betaines to Acetylene and Ethylene: Bending Vibrations Facilitate Reaction," Angew. Chem. Int. Ed., 2009, 48, 2746-2748, DOI: 10.1002/anie.200805906