Copper-photocatalyzed ATRA reactions: concepts, applications, and opportunities
Atom transfer radical addition (ATRA) reactions are linchpin transformations in synthetic chemistry enabling the atom-economic difunctionalization of alkenes. Thereby a rich chemical space can be accessed through smart combinations of simple starting materials. Originally, these reactions required toxic and hazardous radical initiators or harsh thermal activation and thus, the recent resurgence and dramatic evolution of photocatalysis appeared as an attractive complement to catalyze such transformations in a mild and energy-efficient manner. Initially, this technique relied primarily on complexes of precious metals, such as ruthenium or iridium, to absorb the visible light. Hence, copper photocatalysis rapidly developed into a powerful alternative, not just from an economic point of view. Originally considered to be disadvantageous as a pathway for deactivation by quenching their excited state, the dynamic nature of Cu-complexes enables them to undergo facile ligand exchange and thus opens up special opportunities for transformations utilizing their inner-coordination sphere. Moreover, the ability of Cu(II), representing a persistent radical, to capture incipient radicals offers the possibility to access heretofore elusive two-component, but also three-component, ATRA reactions, not feasible with ruthenium or iridium catalysts. In this regard, the idea of using Cu(I)-substrate assemblies as active photocatalysts is an emerging field to achieve such 3-component coupling reactions even under enantioselective control, which is reflected by an increasing number of reports being covered in this review.