A Theoretical Approach to Demystify the Role of Copper Salts and O2 in the Mechanism of C-N Bond Cleavage and Nitrogen Transfer

03 May 2021, Version 1
This content is a preprint and has not undergone peer review at the time of posting.


C≡N bond scission accomplished by protonation, reductive cleavage and metathesis techniques are well-known to execute nitrogen transfer reactions. Herein, we have conducted an extensive computational study, using DFT and molecular dynamics simulations, to unravel the mechanistic pathways traversed in CuCN and CuBr2 promoted splitting of coordinated cyanide anion under a dioxygen atmosphere, which enables nitrogen transfer to various aldehydes. Our detailed electronic structure analysis using ab initio multi-reference CASSCF calculations reveal that both the promoters facilitate radical pathways, in agreement with the experimental findings. This is a unique instance of oxygen activation initiated by single electron transfer from the nitrile carbon, while the major driving force is the operation of the CuII/I redox cycle. Our study reveals that the copper salts act as the “electron pool” in this unique nitrogen transfer reaction forming aryl nitrile from aryl aldehydes.


density functional theory
oxygen activation pathway
nitrogen transfer processes
Computational Chemistry
modeling chemical reactions

Supplementary materials

Electronic Supporting Information

Supplementary weblinks


Comments are not moderated before they are posted, but they can be removed by the site moderators if they are found to be in contravention of our Commenting Policy [opens in a new tab] - please read this policy before you post. Comments should be used for scholarly discussion of the content in question. You can find more information about how to use the commenting feature here [opens in a new tab] .
This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy [opens in a new tab] and Terms of Service [opens in a new tab] apply.