Unveiling the Role of Base and Additive in the Ullmann-Type of Arene-Aryl C-C Coupling Reaction

Manjaly J. Ajitha, Fathima Pary, Toby L. Nelson*, Djamaladdin G. Musaev

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


The mechanism of Ullmann-type biaryl formation between benzo-[1,2-b:4,5-b′]dithiophene-1,1,5,5-tetraoxide (BDTT) and iodobenzene (ArI) was computationally studied in the presence of CuI, phenanthroline (Phen), K3PO4 (as a base), and Ag2CO3 (as an additive). It is shown that base and additive play critical roles in each step of the reaction, such as (a) the I-to-base exchange in complex (Phen)CuI, (b) substrate deprotonation via the acid-base mechanism, and (c) Ar-I activation and DBT-Ar coupling. It is shown that (a) the presence of sulfonyl oxygens in DBT is essential - it plays an anchoring role and brings substrate and base closer to each other. In the presence of K3PO4 and in the absence of additive Ag2CO3, the Ph-I activation and C-C coupling occurs via a Cu-mediated nucleophilic substitution mechanism and requires a significant free energy barrier. However, the addition of Ag2CO3 to the reaction mixture not only accelerates the DBT and PhI coupling by reducing the rate-limiting Ph-I activation barrier but also switches the mechanism of the reaction from a Cu-mediated nucleophilic substitution to a Ag(I)-promoted oxidative addition-reductive elimination. These findings are important for development of the next generation reaction conditions for Ullmann-type of coupling reactions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4829-4837
Number of pages9
JournalACS Catalysis
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 1 2018


  • additive effect
  • Ag(I)-promoted oxidative addition-reductive elimination
  • Cu-mediated nucleophilic substitution
  • DFT studies
  • Ullmann-coupling

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Catalysis
  • Chemistry(all)


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