A mechanistic insight into the effect of piperidine as an organocatalyst on the [3 + 2] cycloaddition reaction of benzalacetone with phenyl azide from a computational study†
Several transition structures (TSs) for catalyst-free [3 + 2] cycloaddition and two plausible mechanistic pathways for the organocatalyzed [3 + 2] cycloaddition (32CA) between benzalacetone and phenyl azide were located by quantum chemistry methods. Calculations were carried out with B3LYP, MPWB1K and M06-2X functionals using 6-31G(d) and 6-311G(d,p) basis sets in gas and solvent phases. The calculated activation barriers imply that the lowest barrier pathway is the catalyzed process producing 3-regioisomers through the iminium intermediate and not through the dienamine route. Electronic displacements along the reaction path have been examined using a topological analysis of the electron-localization function (ELF). ELF topological analyses along the intrinsic reaction coordinates (IRC) of both catalyzed and uncatalyzed 32CA reactions indicated that while the first C1–N1 single bond is formed as a dative bond, the formation of the second C2–N3 bond takes place via a C-to-N coupling between the interacting centers of the reagents. Moreover, the ELF analyses imply that the reaction mechanism is a two-stage one-step process in the presence of a piperidine organocatalyst, while bond formation in an uncatalyzed process is almost synchronous.