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Benzyl

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In organic chemistry, benzyl is the substituent or molecular fragment possessing the structure C6H5CH2-. Benzyl features a benzene ring attached to a CH2 group.[1]

NomenclatureEdit

The term benzyl refers most commonly to benzyl compounds, such as benzyl chloride or benzyl benzoate. Benzyl also refers to a free radical with the formula C6H5CH2. The benzyl carbocation has the formula C6H5CH2+. The benzyl carbanion has the formula C6H5CH2-. None of these species can be formed in significant amounts under normal conditions, but they are useful referents for discussion of mechanisms.

Sometimes, benzyl and phenyl are confused, but their formulas and behavior are very different. The term benzylic refers to the position on a carbon skeleton next to a phenyl or other aromatic ring.

AbbreviationsEdit

The abbreviation "Bn" is frequently used to denote benzyl groups in nomenclature and structural depictions of chemical compounds. For example, benzyl alcohol can be represented as BnOH. This abbreviation is not to be confused with "Bz", which is the abbreviation for the benzoyl group C6H5C(O)-.

Reactivity of benzylic centersEdit

Benzylic positions are endowed with special reactivity, as in oxidation, free radical halogenation, or hydrogenolysis. As a practical example, in the presence of suitable catalysts, p-xylene oxidizes exclusively at the benzylic positions to give terephthalic acid:

CH3C6H4CH3 + 3 O2 → HO2CC6H4CO2H + 2 H2O

Millions of tonnes of terephthalic acid are produced annually by this method.[2]

The enhanced reactivity of benzylic positions is attributed to the low bond dissociation energy for benzylic C-H bonds. Specifically, the bond C6H5CH2-H is about 10-15% weaker than other kinds of C-H bonds. The neighboring aromatic ring stabilizes benzyl radicals.

Benzyl protective groupsEdit

Benzyl groups are frequently used in organic synthesis as protective group for alcohols and carboxylic acids.

Two common methods for benzyl ether protection:

File:PMB protection of an alcohol.gif

The benzyl group can be removed by hydrogenation. PMB ethers can be cleaved by magnesium bromidedimethyl sulfide, CAN or DDQ.[5]

One study [6] employs a benzyloxy pyridinium salt as a benzyl transfer reagent for alcohols:

Pyridinium salt benzyl ether protection

Trifluorotoluene was used as the solvent in the presence of magnesium oxide as an acid scavenger. The reaction type for this conversion is believed to be SN1 based on the detection of trace amounts of Friedel-Crafts reaction side-products with toluene as a solvent.

ReferencesEdit

  1. Carey, F. A., and Sundberg, R. J.; Advanced Organic Chemistry, Part A: Structure and Mechanisms, 5th ed.; Springer: New York, NY, 2008. pp 806–808, 312–313.
  2. Richard J. Sheehan, "Terephthalic Acid, Dimethyl Terephthalate, and Isophthalic Acid" in Ullmann's Encyclopedia of Industrial Chemistry, Wiley-VCH, Weinheim, 2002. doi:10.1002/14356007.a26_193
  3. DeSelms, R. H.; Benzyl Phenyl Ether Compounds; Enigen Science Publishing: Washington, DC, 2008.
  4. Total synthesis of rutamycin B via Suzuki macrocyclization James D. White, Thomas Tiller, Yoshihiro Ohba, Warren J. Porter, Randy W. Jackson, Shan Wang, and Roger Hanselmann 80 Chem. Commun., 1998 doi:10.1039/a707251a
  5. Protecting groups Krzysztof Jarowicki and Philip Kocienski J. Chem. Soc., Perkin Trans. 1, 1998, 4005–4037 4005 doi:10.1039/a803688h
  6. K. W. C. Poon and G. B. Dudley (2006). "Mix-and-Heat Benzylation of Alcohols Using a Bench-Stable Pyridinium Salt". J. Org. Chem. 71 (10): 3923–3927. doi:10.1021/jo0602773. PMID 16674068. 

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