Radical hydroxymethylation of alkyl iodides using formaldehyde as a C1 synthon


Radical hydroxymethylation using formaldehyde as a C1 synthon is challenging due to the reversible and endothermic nature of the addition process. Here we report a strategy that couples alkyl iodide building blocks with formaldehyde through the use of photocatalysis and a phosphine additive. Halogen-atom transfer (XAT) from α-aminoalkyl radicals is leveraged to convert the iodide into the corresponding open-shell species, while its following addition to formaldehyde is rendered irreversible by trapping the transient O-radical with PPh3. This event delivers a phosphoranyl radical that re-generates the alkyl radical and provides the hydroxymethylated product.

Chemical Science