Ligand-to-Copper Charge Transfer: A General Catalytic Approach to Aromatic Decarboxylative Functionalization

20 April 2021, Version 1


Aryl carboxylic acids are valuable, stable, and abundant functional handles in organic synthesis. Historically, their activation with established two-electron methods requires forcing conditions, and such protocols are limited in scope. In contrast, we envisioned that copper’s ability to generate open-shell species through ligand-to-metal charge transfer (LMCT), combined with its unique capacity to act as a potential aroyloxy and aryl radical reservoir, could mediate facile light- and copper-enabled aromatic decarboxylative functionalization by mitigating undesired reactivity of radical intermediates formed during aromatic decarboxylation. We report herein a general copper-LMCT open-shell activation platform for aromatic halodecarboxylation. Catalytic decarboxylative chlorination, bromination, and iodination of diverse (hetero)aryl carboxylic acids have been achieved to provide broadly used electrophilic cross-coupling handles from widely available aromatic acid precursors. Notably, decarboxylative fluorination of aryl carboxylic acids ­– a long-standing challenge in the field of organic synthesis – is readily accessible over a wide breadth of (hetero)aryl substrates. Ultrafast transient absorption (TA) spectroscopy experiments in combination with steady-state UV-vis spectroscopy studies are consistent with the proposed copper-LMCT mechanism, supporting the mechanistic basis of this activation platform.


aryl carboxylic acids
ligand-to-metal charge transfer
photoredox catalysis
copper catalysis


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