Rate acceleration of the Baylis-Hillman reaction in polar solvents (water and formamide). Dominant role of hydrogen bonding, not hydrophobic effects, is implicated

VK Aggarwal*, David K Dean, Andrea Mereu, Richard Williams

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

209 Citations (Scopus)


A substantial acceleration of the Baylis-Hillman reaction between cyclohexenone and benzaldehyde has been observed when the reaction is conducted in water. Several different amine catalysts were tested, and as with reactions conducted in the absence of solvent, 3-hydroxyquinuclidine was found to be the optimum catalyst in terms of rate. The reaction has been extended to other aldehyde electrophiles including pivaldehyde. Attempts to extend this work to acrylates was only partially successful as rapid hydrolysis of methyl and ethyl acrylates occurred under the base-catalyzed and water-promoted conditions. However, tert-butyl acrylates were sufficiently stable to couple with relatively reactive electrophiles. Further studies on the use of polar solvents revealed that formamide also provided significant acceleration and the use of 5 equiv of formamide (optimum amount) gave faster rates than reactions conducted in water. Using formamide, further acceleration was achieved in the presence of Yb(OTf)(3) (5 mol %). The scope of the new conditions was tested with a range of Michael acceptors and benzaldehyde and with a range of electrophiles and ethyl acrylate. The origin of the rate acceleration is discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)510-514
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Organic Chemistry
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 25 Jan 2002



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