Mechanistic Investigation into the Acetate-Initiated Catalytic Trimerization of Aliphatic Isocyanates: A Bicyclic Ride.

The Journal of organic chemistry (2020-06-09)
Max Siebert, Rebecca Sure, Peter Deglmann, Anna C Closs, Frederic Lucas, Oliver Trapp

The acetate-initiated aliphatic isocyanate trimerization to isocyanurate was investigated by state-of-the-art analytical and computational methods. Although the common cyclotrimerization mechanism assumes the consecutive addition of three equivalents of isocyanate to acetate prior to product formation, we found that the underlying mechanism is more complex. In this work, we demonstrate that the product, in fact, is formed via the connection of two unexpected catalytic cycles, with acetate being only the precatalyst. The initial discovery of a precatalyst activation by quantum chemical computations and the resulting first catalysis cycle were corroborated by mass spectrometric and NMR experiments, thereby additionally revealing a catalyst migration to the second catalytic cycle. These results were further confirmed by computations, completing the full mechanistic understanding of this catalytic system. Identification of a side product with undesired properties for final coating applications allows for process optimization in the chemical industry.

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Hexyl isocyanate, 97%
Toluene-d8, anhydrous, 99.6 atom % D