The reductive deaminative conversion of nitriles to alcohols using para-formaldehyde in aqueous solution†
We report herein, for the first time, the application of para-formaldehyde (pFA) to the reductive deamination of both aliphatic and aromatic nitriles in aqueous solution under transfer hydrogenation conditions. A broad range of primary alcohols have been synthesized selectively with very good to excellent yields under the optimized conditions. The study disclosed that the air-stable, inexpensive and commercially available catalyst [Ru(p-cymene)Cl2]2 acts as the catalyst precursor in this reaction, converting to other more active catalytic species in the presence of pFA, resulting in its degradation to CO2 and H2. Nitriles are also showed to play a dual role in this transformation, both as a substrate and as a ligand, where the dimeric catalyst structures convert to monomeric ones upon the coordination of nitrile molecules.