Selective N-monomethylation of primary anilines with dimethyl carbonate in continuous flow

    Hyowon Seo, Anne-Catherine Bédard, Willie P. Chen, Robert W. Hicklin, Alexander Alabugin, Timothy F. Jamison

    • Department of Chemistry, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 77 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02139, USA

    Selective N-monomethylation of anilines has been achieved under continuous flow conditions using dimethyl carbonate as a green methylating agent in the presence of 1,8-diazabicyclo[5.4.0]undec-7-ene. Our methodology takes advantage of the expanded process windows available in the continuous flow regime to safely induce monomethylation in superheated solvents at high pressure. We propose selective N-monomethylation is achieved via an in situ protection-deprotection pathway, which is supported by the observed reactivities of several putative reaction intermediates. The robust and scalable method was applicable to a broad range of primary aniline substrates including ortho-, meta-, and para-substituted anilines, as well as electron-rich and electron-deficient anilines. The synthetic precursor of diazepam, 5-chloro-2-(methylamino)benzophenone, was selectively synthesized under our optimized conditions.

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