Ken Houk has produced a very nice minireview on bifurcations in organic reactions.1 This article is a great introduction to a topic that has broad implication for mechanistic concepts. Bifurcations result when a valley-ridge inflection point occurs on or near the intrinsic reaction coordinate. This inflection point allows trajectories to split into neighboring basins (to proceed to different products) without crossing a second transition state. In the examples discussed, the reactant crosses a single transition state and then leads to two different products. This is the so-called “two-step no intermediate” process.

I discuss the implications of these kinds of potential energy surfaces, and other ones of a pathological nature, in the last chapter of my book. Very interesting reaction dynamics often are the result, leading to a mechanistic understanding far from the ordinary!


(1) Ess, D. H.; Wheeler, S. E.; Iafe, R. G.; Xu, L.; Çelebi-Ölçüm, N.; Houk, K. N., "Bifurcations on Potential Energy Surfaces of Organic Reactions," Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. 2008, DOI: 10.1002/anie.200800918