Realizing the extraordinary potential of unactivated sp3 C-H bond oxidation in organic synthesis requires the discovery of catalysts that are both highly reactive and predictably selective. We report an iron (Fe)-based small molecule catalyst that uses hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) to oxidize a broad range of substrates. Predictable selectivity is achieved solely on the basis of the electronic and steric properties of the C-H bonds, without the need for directing groups. Additionally, carboxylate directing groups may be used to furnish five-membered ring lactone products. We demonstrate that these three modes of selectivity enable the predictable oxidation of complex natural products and their derivatives at specific C-H bonds with preparatively useful yields. This type of general and predictable reactivity stands to enable aliphatic C-H oxidation as a method for streamlining complex molecule synthesis.
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