Asymmetric copper-catalyzed C-N cross-couplings induced by visible light

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Science  12 Feb 2016:
Vol. 351, Issue 6274, pp. 681-684
DOI: 10.1126/science.aad8313

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Copper's light touch forges C-N bonds

Organic photochemistry has traditionally relied on excitation in the ultraviolet, where carbon-based compounds tend to absorb. Over the past decade, the field has undergone a renaissance as compounds that absorb visible light have proven to be versatile catalysts for organic reactions. For the most part, however, these catalysts have contained rare metals such as ruthenium or iridium. Kainz et al. now report a blue light-driven C-N bond-forming reaction catalyzed by Earth-abundant copper (see the Perspective by Greaney). Through coordination to a chiral ligand, the copper center couples alkyl chlorides to indoles and carbazoles with a high degree of enantioselectivity.

Science, this issue p. 681; see also p. 666


Despite a well-developed and growing body of work in copper catalysis, the potential of copper to serve as a photocatalyst remains underexplored. Here we describe a photoinduced copper-catalyzed method for coupling readily available racemic tertiary alkyl chloride electrophiles with amines to generate fully substituted stereocenters with high enantioselectivity. The reaction proceeds at –40°C under excitation by a blue light-emitting diode and benefits from the use of a single, Earth-abundant transition metal acting as both the photocatalyst and the source of asymmetric induction. An enantioconvergent mechanism transforms the racemic starting material into a single product enantiomer.

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