Researchers systematically blocked key chemical reaction pathways to get unambiguous information about how carbon-nitrogen bonds are formed in a catalytic reaction known as hydroamination. Understanding a multi-step catalytic mechanism is like a solving a puzzle where you can’t see the pieces. However, you can add your own “pieces” with known shapes to figure out what other pieces of the puzzle then will (or will not) fit. Hydroamination reactions are catalyzed by several different metal catalysts. The researchers studied magnesium-based hydroamination catalysts because they have stable, potential intermediates in the catalytic process that could be synthesized separately, can be used to understand the catalytic mechanism, and provide alternatives to traditional rare earth catalysts. Blocking the common insertion mechanism showed that a second route for hydroamination is possible, indicating that the catalyst can work in at least two distinct ways. This information is key to understanding this class of catalyst, which is used for carbon-nitrogen bond reforming reactions, and to guiding general strategies for replacing rare earths in catalysts.
Concerted C-N and C-H Bond Formation in a Magnesium-Catalyzed Hydroamination