Preparation and Use of Samarium Diiodide (SmI2) in Organic Synthesis: The Mechanistic Role of HMPA and Ni(II) Salts in the Samarium Barbier Reaction

TitlePreparation and Use of Samarium Diiodide (SmI2) in Organic Synthesis: The Mechanistic Role of HMPA and Ni(II) Salts in the Samarium Barbier Reaction
Publication TypeWeb Article
Year of Publication2013
AuthorsSadasivam DV, Choquette KA, Flowers, II RA
Series TitleJournal of Visual Chemistry

Although initially considered an esoteric reagent, SmI2 has become a common tool for synthetic organic chemists. SmI2 is generated through the addition of molecular iodine to samarium metal in THF.1,2-3 It is a mild and selective single electron reductant and its versatility is a result of its ability to initiate a wide range of reductions including C-C bond-forming and cascade or sequential reactions. SmI2 can reduce a variety of functional groups including sulfoxides and sulfones, phosphine oxides, epoxides, alkyl and aryl halides, carbonyls, and conjugated double bonds.2-12 One of the fascinating features of SmI-2-mediated reactions is the ability to manipulate the outcome of reactions through the selective use of cosolvents or additives. In most instances, additives are essential in controlling the rate of reduction and the chemo- or stereoselectivity of reactions.13-14 Additives commonly utilized to fine tune the reactivity of SmI2 can be classified into three major groups: (1) Lewis bases (HMPA, other electron-donor ligands, chelating ethers, etc.), (2) proton sources (alcohols, water etc.), and (3) inorganic additives (Ni(acac)2, FeCl3, etc).3

Understanding the mechanism of SmI2 reactions and the role of the additives enables utilization of the full potential of the reagent in organic synthesis. The Sm-Barbier reaction is chosen to illustrate the synthetic importance and mechanistic role of two common additives: HMPA and Ni(II) in this reaction. The Sm-Barbier reaction is similar to the traditional Grignard reaction with the only difference being that the alkyl halide, carbonyl, and Sm reductant are mixed simultaneously in one pot.1,15 Examples of Sm-mediated Barbier reactions with a range of coupling partners have been reported,1,3,7,10,12 and have been utilized in key steps of the synthesis of large natural products.16,17 Previous studies on the effect of additives on SmI2 reactions have shown that HMPA enhances the reduction potential of SmI2 by coordinating to the samarium metal center, producing a more powerful,13-14,18 sterically encumbered reductant19-21 and in some cases playing an integral role in post electron-transfer steps facilitating subsequent bond-forming events.22 In the Sm-Barbier reaction, HMPA has been shown to additionally activate the alkyl halide by forming a complex in a pre-equilibrium step.23

Ni(II) salts are a catalytic additive used frequently in Sm-mediated transformations.24-27 Though critical for success, the mechanistic role of Ni(II) was not known in these reactions. Recently it has been shown that SmI2 reduces Ni(II) to Ni(0), and the reaction is then carried out through organometallic Ni(0) chemistry.28

These mechanistic studies highlight that although the same Barbier product is obtained, the use of different additives in the SmI2 reaction drastically alters the mechanistic pathway of the reaction. The protocol for running these SmI2-initiated reactions is described.