Ring Enlargement of Three-Membered Heterocycles by Treatment with In Situ Formed Tricyanomethane

Klaus Banert, Madhu Chityala, Marcus Korb

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Although the chemistry of elusive tricyanomethane (cyanoform) has been studied during a period of more than 150 years, this compound has very rarely been utilized in the synthesis or modification of heterocycles. Three-membered heterocycles, such as epoxides, thiirane, aziridines, or 2H-azirines, are now treated with tricyanomethane, which is generated in situ by heating azidomethylidene-malonodinitrile in tetrahydrofuran at 45 °C or by adding sulfuric acid to potassium tricyanomethanide. This leads to ring expansion with formation of 2-(dicyanomethylidene)oxazolidine derivatives or creation of the corresponding thiazolidine, imidazolidine, or imidazoline compounds and opens up a new access to these push–pull-substituted olefinic products. The regio- and stereochemistry of the ring-enlargement processes are discussed, and the proposed reaction mechanisms were confirmed by using 15N-labeled substrates. It turns out that different mechanisms are operating; however, tricyanomethanide is always acting as a nitrogen-centered nucleophile, which is quite unusual if compared to other reactions of this species.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)6158-6164
Number of pages7
JournalChemistry - A European Journal
Issue number28
Publication statusPublished - 15 May 2020

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