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Researchers Develop a New Approach to Amides from Alkene and Amine Feedstocks

Cobalt-catalyzed synthesis of amides from alkenes and amines promoted by light

January 4, 2024 | By Erik Alexanian 

A team at UNC-Chapel Hill has developed a new process for synthesizing amides in a 100% atom-economical, sustainable fashion using earth-abundant cobalt.

UNC-Chapel Hill chemist Erik Alexanian is leading a research group focused on the development of new catalytic processes using sustainable, inexpensive earth-abundant metals to synthesize valuable synthetic building blocks.

Amides are found in diverse chemical structures such as the backbone of proteins, materials such as nylon, and small molecule drugs. The amide bond is in fact the most frequently constructed functionality in pharmaceutical synthesis. Typically, the amide bond is constructed via addition of an amine to a carboxylic acid using a stoichiometric coupling reagent, leading to waste and poor atom economy. A catalytic, waste-free process developed by the Alexanian group offers an attractive alternative.

A new research paper published on Jan. 4 in Science details a catalytic approach to the construction of the amide bond using earth-abundant cobalt and two fundamental chemical building blocks: alkenes and amines. The catalyst is inexpensive cobalt carbonyl, which produces amides in a 100% atom-economical approach under mild conditions promoted by light. The transformation proceeds at low catalyst loadings, and even in the absence of reaction solvent, following the principles of “green” chemistry. The reaction transforms alkenes ranging from propylene gas to complex natural products, and amines from ammonia gas to drug compounds, highlighting the versatility of the method.

To read the published article in Science, please click Read More below.

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