Research ArticleChemistry

Isolation of bis(copper) key intermediates in Cu-catalyzed azide-alkyne “click reaction”

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Science Advances  12 Jun 2015:
Vol. 1, no. 5, e1500304
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.1500304


The copper-catalyzed 1,3-dipolar cycloaddition of an azide to a terminal alkyne (CuAAC) is one of the most popular chemical transformations, with applications ranging from material to life sciences. However, despite many mechanistic studies, direct observation of key components of the catalytic cycle is still missing. Initially, mononuclear species were thought to be the active catalysts, but later on, dinuclear complexes came to the front. We report the isolation of both a previously postulated π,σ-bis(copper) acetylide and a hitherto never-mentioned bis(metallated) triazole complex. We also demonstrate that although mono- and bis-copper complexes promote the CuAAC reaction, the dinuclear species are involved in the kinetically favored pathway.

  • Catalysis
  • Mechanism
  • carbene

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