Search Results for "bifurcat"

More strange dynamics from the Singleton Group

Once again the Singleton group reports experiments and computations that require serious reconsideration of our notions of reaction mechanisms.1 In this paper they examine the reaction of dichloroketene with labeled cis-2-butene. With 13C at the 2 position of 2-butene, two products are observed, 1 and 1’, in a ratio of 1’:1 = 0.993 ± 0.001. This is the opposite what one might have imagined based on the carbonyl carbon acting as an electrophile.

The first interesting item is that B3LYP/6-31+G** fails to predict the proper structure of the transition state. It predicts an asymmetric structure 2, shown in Figure 1, while MPW1k/6-31+G**, M06, and MP2 predict a Cs transition structure 3. The Cs TS is confirmed by a grid search of M06-2x geometries with CCSD(T)/6-311++G88/PCM(CH2Cl2) energies.



Figure 1. Optimized TSs 2 (B3LYP/6-31+G**) and 3 (MPW1K/6-31+G**).

The PES using proper computational methods is bifurcating past TS 3, falling downhill to product 1 or 1’. Lying on the Cs plane is a second transition state that interconverts 1 and 1’. On such a surface, conventional transition state theory would predict equal amounts of 1 and 1’, i.e. no isotope effect! So they must resort to a trajectory study – which would be impossibly long if not for the trick of making the labeled carbon super-heavy – like 28C,44C, 76C and 140C and then extrapolating back to just ordinary 13C. These trajectories indicate a ratio of 1’:1 of 0.990 in excellent agreement with the experimental value of 0.993.

Interestingly, most trajectories recross the TS, usually by reaching into the region near the second TS. However, the recrossing decreases with increasing isotopic mass, and this leads to the isotope effect. It turns out the vibrational mode 3 breaks the Cs symmetry; movement in one direction along mode 3 has no mass dependence but in the opposite direction, increased mass leads to decreased recrossing – or put in another way, in this direction, increased mass leads more often to product.

But one can understand this reaction from a statistical point of view as well. If one looks at the free energy surface, there is a variational TS near 3, but then there is a second set of variational transition states (one leading to 1 and one to 1’) which are associated with the formation of the second C-C bond. In a sense there is an intermediate past 3 that leads to two entropic barriers, one on a path to 1 and one on the path to 1’. RRKM using this model gives a ratio of 0.992 – again in agreement with experiment! It is as Singleton notes “perplexing”; how do you reconcile the statistical view with the dynamical (trajectory) view? Singleton has no full explanation.

Lastly, they point out that a similar situation occurs in the organocatalyzed Diels-Alder reaction of MacMillan shown below.2 (This reaction is also discussed in a previous post.) Now Singleton finds that the “substituent effects, selectivity, solvent effects, isotope effects and activation parameters” are all dictated by a second variational TS far removed from the conventional electronic TS.


(1) Gonzalez-James, O. M.; Kwan, E. E.; Singleton, D. A., "Entropic Intermediates and Hidden Rate-Limiting Steps in Seemingly Concerted Cycloadditions. Observation, Prediction, and Origin of an Isotope Effect on Recrossing," J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2012, 134, 1914-1917, DOI: 10.1021/ja208779k

(2) Ahrendt, K. A.; Borths, C. J.; MacMillan, D. W. C., "New Strategies for Organic Catalysis: The First Highly Enantioselective Organocatalytic Diels-Alder Reaction," J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2000, 122, 4243-4244, DOI: 10.1021/ja000092s.


2-butene: InChI=1/C4H8/c1-3-4-2/h3-4H,1-2H3/b4-3-

Dichloroketene: InChI=1/C2Cl2O/c3-2(4)1-5

1 (no isotope): InChI=1/C6H8Cl2O/c1-3-4(2)6(7,8)5(3)9/h3-4H,1-2H3/t3-,4+/m0/s1

cycloadditions &Dynamics &Isotope Effects &Singleton Steven Bachrach 06 Mar 2012 2 Comments

Substitution vs. addition: dynamic effects

Reactions whose outcomes depend on dynamic processes is a major theme of my book and this blog. The recent study of the reaction of a nucleophile (hydroxide) with bromoacetophenones adds yet another case for post-transition state product determination.

Itoh and Yamataka have examined the reaction of hydroxide with substitutes α-bromoacetophenones 1.1 The nucleophile can attack at the carbonyl carbon or the α-carbon, though both lead ultimately to the same product, as shown in Scheme 1.

Scheme 1

B3LYP/6-31+G* computations of the reaction surface with a variety of different substituents on the phenyl ring of 1 located in all cases a single transition state for the two different reactions (addition and substitution). This TS is shown in Figure 1 for the parent case (X=H).

Figure 1. The single transition state for the addition and substitution reaction of 1 and hydroxide.

Tracing the IRC forward leads to either the carbonyl addition product or the substitution product, and which path is traced depends to some extent on the nature of the substituent. Most intriguing is that trajectories initiated at the transition state lead to both products. So once again, we see a case where a single transition state leads to two products, and product selectivity is determine by the dynamics – the initial conditions at the TS dictate which of the two products is eventually obtained.


(1) Itoh, S.; Yoshimura, N.; Sato, M.; Yamataka, H., "Computational Study on the Reaction Pathway of α-Bromoacetophenones with Hydroxide Ion: Possible Path Bifurcation in the Addition/Substitution Mechanism," J. Org. Chem., 2011, 70, 8294–8299, DOI: 10.1021/jo201485y

Dynamics &Substitution Steven Bachrach 24 Oct 2011 13 Comments

Topics for a new edition of Computational Organic Chemistry

I am very much contemplating a second edition of my book Computational Organic Chemistry, which is the basis of this blog. I have been in touch with Wiley and they are enthusiastic about a second edition.

Here is a list of some of the things I am contemplating as new topics for the second edition

  1. Discussion of the failures of many of the standard functionals (like B3LYP) to treat simple organics
  2. Predicting NMR, IR and ORD spectra
  3. Möbius compounds, especially aromatics
  4. π-π-stacking
  5. tunneling in carbenes (Schreiner and Allen’s great work)
  6. acidity of amino acids and remote protons
  7. bifurcating potential energy surfaces and the resultant need for dynamic considerations
  8. even more examples of dynamics – especially the roundabout SN2

So, I would like to ask my readers for suggestions of other ideas for new topics to add to the book. These can be extensions of the topics already covered, or brand new areas!

Additionally, I am planning on interviewing a few more people for the book, similar in spirit to the 6 interviews in the first addition. Again, I welcome any suggestions for computational chemists to interview!

Uncategorized Steven Bachrach 09 Aug 2011 6 Comments

Organocatalytic Claisen Rearrangements

Jacobsen reports another interesting example of organocatalysis, here using a chiral guanadinium salt to catalyze the enantioselective Claisen rearrangement.1 As an example, Reaction 1 proceeds in 6 days at 30 °C to give 81% yield with an ee of 84%. The system is also diastereoselective, so that Reaction 2, run for 6 days at 40 °C, gives an 82% yield with a diastereomeric ratio of 16:1 and an ee of 81%.

Reaction 1

Reaction 2


B3LYP/6-31G(d,p) computations provide some insight. The uncatalyzed reaction of 1 to give 2 is predicted to be exothermic by 16.1 kcal mol-1, with an activation energy of 25.9 kcal mol-1. Using N,N’-dimethylguanidnium as a model for the catalyst (and with no counter anion and no treatment of solvent – hexanes in this case), they find a complexation energy of almost 27 kcal mol-1 for forming 3. 3 exhibits (See Figure 1) three hydrogen bond-like interactions – one N-H bifurcates to interact with the carbonyl oxygen and (a very long interaction) to the other oxygen. The product complex 4 also shows three hydrogen bond-like interactions, with an overall exothermicity of -14.7 kcal mol-1. The complexed transition state 5 has two normal length hydrogen bonds, with an activation energy above 3 of 20.6 kcal mol-1. Thus the complex lowers the barrier by about 5 kcal mol-1, indicating the catalytic effect. They have not however addressed the enantioselectivity.




Figure 1. B3LYP/6-31G(d,p) optimized geometries of 3-5.


(1) Uyeda, C.; Rötheli, A. R.; Jacobsen, E. N., "Catalytic Enantioselective Claisen Rearrangements of O-Allyl β-Ketoesters," Angew. Chem. Int. Ed., 2010, 49, 9753–9756, DOI: 10.1002/anie.201005183


1: InChI=1/C10H14O3/c1-3-7-13-9-6-4-5-8(9)10(11)12-2/h3H,1,4-7H2,2H3

2: InChI=1/C10H14O3/c1-3-6-10(9(12)13-2)7-4-5-8(10)11/h3H,1,4-7H2,2H3/t10-/m0/s1

Claisen rearrangement &stereoinduction Steven Bachrach 08 Feb 2011 1 Comment

More dynamic effects in Diels-Alder reactions

Dynamic effects rear up yet again in a seemingly simple reaction. Singleton has examined the Diels-Alder cycloaddition of acrolein with methyl vinyl ketone to give two cross products 1 and 2.1 Upon heating the product mixture, 1 is essentially the only observed species. The retro-Diels-Alder is much slower than the conversion of 2 into 1. Using a variety of rate data, the best estimate for the relative formation of 1:2 is 2.5.

The eight possible transition states for this reaction were computed with a variety of methodologies, all providing very similar results. The lowest energy TS is TS3. A TS of type TS4 could not be found; all attempts to optimize it collapsed to TS3.

IRC computations indicate the TS3 leads to 1. The lowest energy TS that leads to 2 is TS6, but a second TS (TS5) lower in energy than TS6 also leads to 1. The other TS are still higher in energy. A Cope-type TS that interconverts 1 and 2 (TS7) was also located. The geometries of these TSs are shown in Figure 1.





Figure 1. MP2/6-311+G** optimized geometries and relative energies (kcal mol-1) of TS3-TS7.1

Ordinary transition state theory cannot explain the experimental results – the energy difference between the lowest barrier to 1 (TS3) and to 2 (TS6) suggests a rate preference of over 700:1 for 1:2. But the shape of the potential energy surface is reminiscent of others that have been discussed in both my book (Chapter 7) and this blog (see my posts on dynamics) – a surface where trajectories cross a single TS but then bifurcate into two product wells.

To address the chemical selectivity on a surface like this, one must resort to molecular dynamics and examine trajectories. In their MD study of the 296 trajectories that begin at TS3 with motion towards product, 89 end at 1 and 33 end at 2, an amazingly good reproduction of experimental results! Interestingly, 174 trajectories recross the transition state and head back towards reactants. These recrossing trajectories result from “bouncing off” the potential energy wall of the forming C4-C5 bond.

In previous work, selectivity in on these types of surfaces was argued in terms of which well the TS was closer to. But analysis of the trajectories in this case revealed that a strong correlation exists between the initial direction and velocity in the 98 cm-1 vibration – the vibration that corresponds to the closing of the second σ bond, the one between C6-O1 (forming 1), in the negative direction, and closing the C­3-O8 bond (forming 2) in the positive direction. Singleton argues that this is a type of dynamic matching, and it might be more prevalent that previously recognized.


(1) Wang, Z.; Hirschi, J. S.; Singleton, D. A., "Recrossing and Dynamic Matching Effects on Selectivity in a Diels-Alder Reaction," Angew. Chem. Int. Ed., 2009, 48, 9156-9159, DOI: 10.1002/anie.200903293


1: InChI=1/C7H10O2/c1-6(8)7-4-2-3-5-9-7/h3,5,7H,2,4H2,1H3

2: InChI=1/C7H10O2/c1-6-3-2-4-7(5-8)9-6/h3,5,7H,2,4H2,1H3

Diels-Alder &Dynamics &Singleton Steven Bachrach 27 Apr 2010 No Comments

Cycloadditions of cyclodienes with ketenes

One more study of cyclodiene reactions with ketenes that suggest the occurrence of dynamic effects.1 The reaction of cyclopentadiene with t-butylcyanoketene 1 gives cyclobutanone 2 solely. In contrast, the reaction of 1,3-cyclophexadiene with 1 gives the cyclobutanone 3 and a small amount (less than 25%) of the ether 4. Warming the reaction from -20 °C to 20 °C leads to loss of 3 and an increase in 4. This is in distinct contrast with the reaction of cyclopentadiene with diphenylketene,2 where the ether product is the major product and the cyclobutenone is the minor product (see Chapter in my book).

To help understand this situation, the authors optimized the structures of the critical points on the surface of the cyclohexadiene reaction at MPWB1K/6-31+G(d,p) – though once again, there are no supporting materials so I cannot supply the 3-D structures in the blog! 4 is predicted to be 3.4 kcal mol-1 more stable than 3, which accounts for it being the thermodynamic product, consistent with experiment. Only two transition states are found. The first TS, with a barrier of 23.2 kcal mol-1, connects reactants with 3. The second transition state corresponds to the oxy-Cope rearrangement that takes 3 into 4. This surface is reminiscent of many others that display dynamic effects (again see my book and also these posts). Unfortunately, the authors have not performed any trajectory calculation. But one might expect that most trajectories cross the first transition state and fall into the well associated with 3. Some of these molecules then go on to cross the second barrier to form 4. But some trajectories cross the first TS and then veer off into the slightly lower well associated with 4, being directly formed from reactant. This would be a manifestation of dynamic effects, and is worth further study.


(1) Marton, A.; Pârvulescu, L.; Draghici, C.; Varga, R. A.; Gheorghiu, M. D., "Reaction of Moore’s ketene (tert-butylcyanoketene) with 1,3-cyclopentadiene and 1,3-cyclohexadiene. Is periselectivity controlled by the dynamic of trajectories at the bifurcation point?," Tetrahedron, 2009, 65, 7504-7509, DOI: 10.1016/j.tet.2009.07.020.

(2) Ussing, B. R.; Hang, C.; Singleton, D. A., "Dynamic Effects on the Periselectivity, Rate, Isotope Effects, and Mechanism of Cycloadditions of Ketenes with Cyclopentadiene," J. Am. Chem. Soc., 2006, 128, 7594-7607, DOI: 10.1021/ja0606024.

Dynamics Steven Bachrach 06 Apr 2010 No Comments

Singlet oxygen ene reaction revisited

Sheppard and Acevedo1 have reported a careful re-examination of the ene reaction of singlet oxygen with alkenes that points out inherent difficulties in examining high-dimension potential energy surfaces by reducing the dimensionality.

Their work begins by careful reassessment of the computational study of Singleton, Foote and Houk.2 These authors looked at the reaction of singlet oxygen with cis-2-butene by creating a 15×15 gird of optimized geometries holding the C-O distance fixed to specific values while letting the other geometric variables completely relax (see 1). These geometries were obtained at B3LYP/6-31G* and single-point energies were then obtained at CCSD(T)/6-31G*. They find two transiti0n states, one corresponding to symmetric addition of oxygen to the alkene 2 which leads to the pereperoxide 3. However, this pereperoxide 3 is not an intermediate, but rather a transition state for interconversion of the ene products 4 and 5. These structures and mechanism appear consistent with the experimental kinetic isotope effects. The authors characterize the reaction as “two-step no-intermediate”. Essentially, the reactants would cross the first transition state 1, encounter a valley-ridge inflection point that bifurcates reaction paths that go to either 3 or 4 and avoid ever reaching the second transition state 2.

Sheppard and Acevedo1 tackle two major issues with this work. First, they are concerned about the role of solvent and so perform QM/MM computations with either DMSO, water of cyclohexane as solvent. The second factor is the choice of scanning just a 2-D grid as a projection of the multidimensional potential energy surface. Sheppard and Acevedo point out that since all other variable are optimized in this process, the hydrogen atom that is involved in the ene process must be bonded to either C or O and is therefore removed from the reaction coordinate. So they have performed a 3-D grid search where in addition to the two C-O distances they use the O-C-C angle as a variable. They find that this PES provides the more traditional stepwise pathway: a transition state that leads to formation of the pereperoxide intermediate and then a second transition state that leads to the ene product. In addition, solvent effects are significant, a not unexpected result given the large dipole of the pereperoxide.

But the main point here is that one must be very careful in reducing the dimensionality of the hypersurface and drawing conclusions from this reduced surface. It appears that the valley-ridge inflection point in the single oxygen ene reaction is an artifact of just this reduced dimensionality.


(1) Sheppard, A. N.; Acevedo, O., “Multidimensional Exploration of Valley-Ridge Inflection Points on Potential-Energy Surfaces,” J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2009, 131, 2530-2540, DOI: 10.1021/ja803879k.

(2) Singleton, D. A.; Hang, C.; Szymanski, M. J.; Meyer, M. P.; Leach, A. G.; Kuwata, K. T.; Chen, J. S.; Greer, A.; Foote, C. S.; Houk, K. N., “Mechanism of Ene Reactions of Singlet Oxygen. A Two-Step No-Intermediate Mechanism,” J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2003, 125, 1319-1328, DOI: 10.1021/ja027225p.


Pereperoxide: InChI=1/C4H9O2/c1-3-4(2)6(3)5/h3-5H,1-2H3/t3-,4+

3: InChI=1/C4H8O2/c1-3-4(2)6-5/h3-5H,1H2,2H3/t4-/m1/s1

4: InChI=1/C4H8O2/c1-3-4(2)6-5/h3-5H,1H2,2H3/t4-/m0/s1

Dynamics &ene reaction Steven Bachrach 15 Apr 2009 No Comments

Insights into dynamic effects

Singleton has taken another foray into the murky arena of “dynamic effects”, this time with the aim of trying to provide some guidance towards making qualitative product predictions.1 He has examined four different Diels-Alder reaction involving two diene species, each of which can act as either the diene or dienophile. I will discuss the results of two of these reactions, namely the reactions of 1 with 2 (Reaction 1) and 1 with 3 (Reaction 2).

Reaction 1

Reaction 2

In the experimental studies, Reaction 1 yields only 4, while reaction 2 yields both products in the ratio 6:7 = 1.6:1. Standard transition state theory would suggest that there are two different transition states for each reaction, one corresponding to the 4+2 reaction where 1 is the dienophile and the other TS has 1 as the dienophile. Then one would argue that in Reaction 1, the TS leading to 4 is much lower in energy than that leading to 5, and for Reaction 2, the TS state leading to 6 lies somewhat lower in energy than that leading to 7.

Now the interesting aspect of the potential energy surfaces for these two reactions is that there are only two transition states. The first corresponds to the Cope rearrangement between the two products (connecting 4 to 5 on the PES of Reaction 1 and 6 to 7 on the PES of Reaction 2). That leaves only one TS connecting reactants to products! These four TSs are displayed in Figure 1.

Reaction 1

Reaction 2

TS 12→45

TS 13→67

Cope TS 4→5

Cope TS 6→7

Figure 1. MPW1K/6-31+G** TSs on the PES of Reactions 1 and 2.1

These transition states are “bispericyclic” (first recognized by Caramella2), having the characteristics of both possible Diels-Alder reactions, i.e. for Reaction 1 these are the [4π1+2π2] and [4π2+2π1]. What this implies is that the reactants come together, cross over a single transition states and then pass over a bifurcating surface where the lowest energy path (the IRC or reaction path) continues on to one product only. The second product, however, can be reached by passing over this same transition state and then following some other non-reaction path. This sort of surface is ripe for experiencing non-statistical behavior, or “dynamic effects”.

Trajectory studies were then performed to explore the product distributions. Starting from TS 12→45, 39 trajectories were followed: 28 ended with 4 and 10 ended with 5 while one trajectory recrossed the transition state. Isomerization of 5 into 4 is possible, and the predicted low barrier for this explains the sole observation of 4. For Reaction 2, of the 33 trajectories that originated at TS 13→67, 12 led to 6 and 19 led to 7. This distribution is consistent with the experimental product distribution of a slight excess of 7 over 6.

Once again we see here a relatively simple reaction whose product distribution is only interpretable using expensive trajectory computations, and the result leave little simplifying concepts to guide us in generalizing to other (related) systems. Singleton does provide two rules-of-thumb that may help prod us towards creating some sort of dynamic model. First, he notes that the geometry of the single transition state that “leads” to the two products can suggest the major product. The TS geometry can be “closer” to one product over the other. For example, in TS 12→45 the two forming C-C bonds that differentiate the two products are 2.95 and 2.99 Å, and the shorter distance corresponds to forming 4. In TS 13→67, the two C-C distances are 2.83 and 3.13 Å, with the shorter distance corresponding to forming 6. The second point has to do with the position of the second TS, the one separating the two products. This TS acts to separate the PES into two basins, one for each product. The farther this TS is from the first TS, the greater the selectivity.

As Singleton notes, neither of these points is particularly surprising in hindsight. Nonetheless, since we have so little guidance in understanding reactions that are under dynamic control, any progress here is important.


(1) Thomas, J. B.; Waas, J. R.; Harmata, M.; Singleton, D. A., "Control Elements in Dynamically Determined Selectivity on a Bifurcating Surface," J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2008, 130, 14544-14555, DOI: 10.1021/ja802577v.

(2) Caramella, P.; Quadrelli, P.; Toma, L., "An Unexpected Bispericyclic Transition Structure Leading to 4+2 and 2+4 Cycloadducts in the Endo Dimerization of Cyclopentadiene," J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2002, 124, 1130-1131, DOI: 10.1021/ja016622h


1: InChI=1/C7H6O3/c1-10-7(9)5-2-3-6(8)4-5/h2-4H,1H3

2: InChI=1/C8H12/c1-2-8-6-4-3-5-7-8/h2,6H,1,3-5,7H2

3: InChI=1/C6H6O/c1-2-6-4-3-5-7-6/h2-5H,1H2

4: InChI=1/C15H18O3/c1-18-14(17)15-9-8-13(16)12(15)7-6-10-4-2-3-5-11(10)15/h6,8-9,11-12H,2-5,7H2,1H3/t1,12-,15+/m1/s1

5: InChI=1/C15H18O3/c1-18-15(17)13-8-11-10(7-12(13)14(11)16)9-5-3-2-4-6-9/h5,8,10-12H,2-4,6-7H2,1H3

6: InChI=1/C13H12O4/c1-16-13(15)10-6-8-7(5-9(10)12(8)14)11-3-2-4-17-11/h2-4,6-9H,5H2,1H3

7: InChI=1/C13H12O4/c1-16-12(15)13-6-4-10(14)8(13)2-3-11-9(13)5-7-17-11/h3-9H,2H2,1H3/t8-,9?,13-/m1/s1

Dynamics &Singleton Steven Bachrach 09 Dec 2008 No Comments

Möbius aromaticity

Rzepa has published another study of Möbius aromaticity.1 Here he examines the [14]annulene 1 using the topological method (AIM) and NICS. The B3LYP/6-31G(d) optimized structures of 1, the transition state 3 and product of the 8-e electroclization 2 are shown in Figure 1.

1 (0.0)

3 (4.56)

2 (0.07)

Figure 1. B3LYP/6-31G(d) optimized structures and relative energies (kcal mol-1) of 1-3.1

The topological analysis of 1 reveals a number of interesting features of the density. First, there are two bond critical points that connect the carbon atoms that cross over each other in the lemniscate structure 1 (these bond paths are drawn as the dashed lines in Scheme 1, connecting C1 to C8 and C7 to C14). These bond critical points have a much smaller electron density than for a typical C-C bond. With these added bond critical points come additional ring points, but not the anticipated 3 ring critical points. There is a ring critical point for the quasi-four member ring (C1-C14-C7-C8-C1), but the expected ring point for each of the two 8-member ring bifurcate into two separate ring critical points sandwiching a cage critical point!

Scheme 1

Rzepa argues that the weak bonding interaction across the lemniscates is evidence for Möbius homoaromaticity in each half of 1. The NICS value at the central ring critical point is -18.6 ppm, reflective of overall Möbius aromaticity. But the NICS values at the 8-member ring ring critical points of -8.6 ppm and the cage critical points (-7.9 ppm) provide support for the Möbius homoaromaticity.

Transition state 3 corresponds to motion along the bond path of those weak bonds along either C1-C8 or C7-C14. This leads to forming the two fused eight-member rings of 2. An interesting thing to note is that there is only one transition state connecting 1 and 2 – even though one might think of the electrocyclization occurring in either the left or right ring. (Rzepa discusses this in a nice J. Chem. Ed. article.2) This transition state 3 is stabilized by Möbius aromaticity.

As an aside, Rzepa has once again made great use of the web in supplying a great deal of information through the web-enhanced object in the paper. As in the past, ACS continues to put this behind the subscriber firewall instead of considering it to be supporting material, which it most certainly is and should therefore be available to all.


(1) Allan, C. S. M.; Rzepa, H. S., "Chiral Aromaticities. AIM and ELF Critical Point and NICS Magnetic Analyses of Moöbius-Type Aromaticity and Homoaromaticity in Lemniscular Annulenes and Hexaphyrins," J. Org. Chem., 2008, 73, 6615-6622, DOI: 10.1021/jo801022b.

(2) Rzepa, H. S., "The Aromaticity of Pericyclic Reaction Transition States" J. Chem. Ed. 2007, 84, 1535-1540,



2: InChI=1/C14H14/c1-2-6-10-14-12-8-4-3-7-11-13(14)9-5-1/h1-14H/b2-1-,4-3-,9-5-,10-6-,11-7-,12-8-/t13-,14+

annulenes &Aromaticity Steven Bachrach 28 Oct 2008 1 Comment

Branching on the Diels-Alder Potential Energy Surface

The search for unusual potential energy surface topologies continues. Unusual surfaces can lead to dynamic effects that result in rates and product distributions dramatically divergent from that predicted by statistical theories. I addressed this topic in Chapter 7 of the book.

Houk has found another interesting example in the Diels-Alder reaction of cyclopentadiene with nitrostyrene 1.1 The [4+2] adduct is 2, which can undergo a [3,3] Cope-like rearrangement to give 3. Product 3 can also result from a [2+4] Diels-Alder cycloaddition where cyclopentadiene acts as the dienophile.

Like some of the examples in Chapter 7, the potential energy surface, computed at B3LYP/6-31+G*, contains a single transition state (TS1) from reactants. Continuing on the reaction path past the transition state, a valley ridge inflection point (VRI) intervenes, causing the path to bifurcate: one path leads to 2 and the other leads to 3. In other words, a single transition state leads to two different products! TS1 is geometrically closer to 2 than 3, while TS2 lies closer to 3 than 2 (Figure 1). This topology directs most molecules to traverse a path over TS1 and on to 2. What is novel in this paper is that the acid-catalyzed reaction, using SnCl4, shifts TS1 towards 3 and TS2 towards 2, leading to the opposite product distribution. The uncatalyzed reaction favors formation of 2 while the catalyzed reaction favors 3 over 2. Confirmation of this prediction awaits a molecular dynamics study.





Figure 1. B3LYP/6-31+G(d) optimized structures for TS1 and TS2.1


(1) Celebi-Olcum, N.; Ess, D. H.; Aviyente, V.; Houk, K. N., “Lewis Acid Catalysis Alters the Shapes and Products of Bis-Pericyclic Diels-Alder Transition States,” J. Am. Chem. Soc., 2007, 129, 4528-4529. DOI: 10.1021/ja070686w


1: InChI=1/C8H7NO2/c10-9(11)7-6-8-4-2-1-3-5-8/h1-7H/b7-6+
2: InChI=1/C13H13NO2/c15-14(16)13-11-7-6-10(8-11)12(13)9-4-2-1-3-5-9/h1-7,10-13H,8H2
3: InChI=1/C13H13NO2/c15-14-9-12(10-5-2-1-3-6-10)11-7-4-8-13(11)16-14/h1-6,8-9,11-13H,7H2

DFT &Diels-Alder &Houk Steven Bachrach 30 Jul 2007 No Comments

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