Direct Evidence of a Dinuclear Copper Intermediate in Cu(I)-Catalyzed Azide-Alkyne Cycloadditions

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Science  04 Apr 2013:
DOI: 10.1126/science.1229506

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The copper(I)-catalyzed azide-alkyne cycloaddition (CuAAC) has become a commonly employed method for the synthesis of complex molecular architectures under challenging conditions. Despite the widespread use of copper-catalyzed cycloaddition reactions, the mechanism of these processes has remained difficult to establish due to the involvement of multiple equilibria between several reactive intermediates. Real-time monitoring of a representative cycloaddition process via heat flow reaction calorimetry revealed that monomeric copper acetylide complexes are not reactive toward organic azides unless an exogenous copper catalyst is added. Furthermore, crossover experiments with an isotopically enriched exogenous copper source illustrated the stepwise nature of the C–N bond-forming events and the equivalence of the two copper atoms within the cycloaddition steps.

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