Switchable Decarboxylation by Energy- or Electron-Transfer Photocatalysis

05 October 2022, Version 1


Kolbe dimerization and Hofer-Moest reactions are well-investigated carboxylic acid transformations, wherein new carbon–carbon and carbon–heteroatom bonds are constructed via electrochemical decarboxylation. These transformations can be switched by choosing an electrode that allows control of the reactive intermediate such as carbon radical or carbocation. However, the requirement of a high current density diminishes the functional group compatibility with these electrochemical reactions. Here, we demonstrate the photocatalytic decarboxylative transformation of carboxylic acids in a switchable and functional group-compatible manner. We discovered that switching between Kolbe-type or Hofer-Moest-type reactions can be accomplished with suitable photocatalysts by controlling the reaction pathways: energy transfer (EnT) and single-electron transfer (SET). The EnT pathway promoted by an organo-photocatalyst yielded 1,2-diarylethane from arylacetic acids, whereas the ruthenium photoredox catalyst allows the construction of an ester scaffold with two arylmethyl moieties via the SET pathway. The resulting radical intermediates were coupled with olefins to realize multicomponent reactions. Consequently, four different products were selectively obtained from a simple carboxylic acid. This discovery offers new opportunities for selectively synthesizing multiple products via switchable reactions using identical substrates with minimum cost and effort.


Supplementary materials

Supplementary information on switchable decarboxylation by energy- or electron-transfer photocatalysis
Supplementary information on switchable decarboxylation by energy- or electron-transfer photocatalysis


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