Microwave-Assisted Phospha-Michael Reactions with Internal Alkenes

Date of Thesis

Spring 2012

Thesis Type

Masters Thesis

Degree Type

Master of Science



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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