Metal-Free Photoredox-Catalyzed C–H/C–H Coupling of Arenes Enabled by Interrupted Pummerer Activation

Aryl–aryl cross-coupling constitutes one of the most widely used procedures for the synthesis of high-value materials, ranging from pharmaceuticals to organic electronics and conducting polymers. The assembly of (hetero)biaryl scaffolds generally requires multiple steps; coupling partners must be functionalized before the key bond-forming event is considered. Thus, the development of selective C–H arylation processes in arenes, that side-step the need for prefunctionalized partners, is crucial for streamlining the construction of these key architectures. Here we report an expedient, one-pot assembly of (hetero)biaryl motifs using photocatalysis and two non-prefunctionalized arene partners. The approach is underpinned by the activation of a C–H bond in an arene coupling partner using the interrupted Pummerer reaction. A unique pairing of the organic photoredox catalyst and the intermediate dibenzothiophenium salts enables highly selective reduction in the presence of sensitive functionalities. The utility of the metal-free, one-pot strategy is exemplified by the synthesis of a bioactive natural product and the modification of complex molecules of societal importance.