HOF·CH3CN: Probably the best oxygen transfer agent organic chemistry has to offer

Shlomo Rozen*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


ConspectusThe complex HOF·CH3CN is readily obtained by bubbling dilute fluorine into aqueous acetonitrile solution. It does not have to be purified or isolated, and its solution can react as is, after the concentration has been establish by any iodometric method. It is the only reagent possessing a distinctive positive oxygen species. This enables electrophilic oxygen transfer with results no other reagent can match. HOF·CH3CN demonstrates its ability in epoxidations that either could not be performed before or could only obtained 5 orders of magnitude slower. This complex is also an excellent tool for oxygenation of compounds at the α position of a carbonyl, including the synthesis of some hard-to-come-by indanediones, which are important for fingerprint visualization on paper. HOF·CH3CN proves itself as a very efficient reagent for oxygenating tertiary nitrogen atoms both in aliphatic (including azides) and in aromatic amines, which could not be accomplished despite many attempts in the last 50 years. Oxygenation of two tertiary nitrogen atoms in the same molecule also becomes feasible as demonstrated for various phenanthrolines, bipyridines, diazafluorenones, and quinoxalines. It was also used to oxygenate primary amines, and because of the exceptionally mild conditions, it could transform vicinal aliphatic diamines to vicinal dinitro derivatives as well as amino acids to the corresponding nitro ones, practically unknown transformations before. Its ability to react with azines and hydrazones and convert them to the original carbonyls helped to establish these groups as good protecting tools for a variety of carbonyls.HOF·CH3CN excels in oxygenation of various sulfur and selenium compounds that could not be oxygenated in the past. The selectivity of the oxidation is quite good, and if there are alcohols, double bonds, and sulfides in the same molecule, usually the sulfur atom will be attacked first. Of special interest is the reaction with oligothiophenes resulting at will in either [all]-S,S-dioxooligothiophenes or in partially oxygenated ones. Some of these last derivatives have the narrowest HOMO-LUMO gap of all oligothiophenes tested, a very desirable feature. This reagent can also oxidize thiols or disulfides to either sulfonic or sulfinic acids at will, all in seconds and in very high yields.Since the oxygen atom of HOF·CH 3CN originates in water, it is very easy and relatively inexpensive to introduce the heavy oxygen isotope in many sites of a variety of molecules, some of them quite important. The 18O tirapazamine and any desirable alcohol, R(Ar)18OH, are two examples.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2378-2389
Number of pages12
JournalAccounts of Chemical Research
Issue number8
StatePublished - 19 Aug 2014


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