Microwave-Assisted Phospha-Michael Reactions with Internal Alkenes

Date of Thesis

Spring 2012

Thesis Type

Masters Thesis



First Advisor

Robert A. Stockland, Jr.


Organic Synthesis


The atom efficient phospha-Michael reaction between bis 4-methylphenyl phosphine oxide and several activated internal alkenes has been shown to occur under microwave irradiation without added solvent or catalyst. The alkenes used for this study were ethyl 4-nitrocinnamate, two chalcones ((E)-3-(4-methoxy-phenyl)-1-(4- nitrophenyl)-prop-2-en-1-one and (E)-1-(4-methoxyphenyl)-3-(3-nitro-phenyl)-prop-2- en-1-one), and 2-phenylmethylene-propanedinitrile. In the case of ethyl 4-nitrocinnamate, reaction with bis 4-methylphenyl phosphine oxide for sixty minutes at 130 °C yielded the desired phospha-Michael product in a 55% yield after purification. Varying the location of the nitro group on the phenyl rings of the chalcones did not seem to have a large effect on their reactivity. By NMR, both chalcones seemed to react to the same extent when the reaction times and temperatures were held constant. Interestingly, a phospha-Michael reaction was observed at a reaction temperature of 65°C for experiments involving 2- phenyl-methylene-propanedinitrile while the other substrates required a reaction temperature of 130 °C. Similar experiments were carried out with bis mesityl phosphine oxide and two internal alkenes: 2-phenylmethylene-propanedinitrile and ethyl-2-cyano-3- methyl-2-butenoate. These experiments did not yield any of the predicted phospha- Michael products, which suggest steric limitations to the Michael donor for this reaction.

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