Purdue University Graduate School

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posted on 2023-02-03, 13:31 authored by Ben NiuBen Niu


Alkyl radicals are powerful intermediates for the generation of carbon-carbon bonds, which play an indispensable role in the synthesis of natural products, pharmaceuticals, and pesticides. Traditionally, there are two main methods for the generation of alkyl radicals. The first is C-H bond functionalization via hydrogen-atom-transfer (HAT). HAT processes have been used as an effective approach for selectively activating C-H bonds via radical pathways. The other strategy to explore the generation of alkyl radicals is C-X bond functionalization via halogen-atom-transfer (XAT). Alkyl halides are one of the largest classes of building blocks in synthesis and they can be obtained from the corresponding alcohols. The most straightforward and effective way to form such alkyl radicals is the direct homolytic cleavage of C-X bonds. In past decades, photoredox catalysis has emerged as a powerful and greener tool for the synthesis of radicals under mild reaction conditions, which has brought tremendous attention. Although remarkable success has been made in this field, some methods still require costly transition metal catalysts or toxic reagents. Herein, we display a series of visible light-induced approaches under transition-metal free conditions or using earth-abundant metals. These novel photo-induced transformations and corresponding mechanistic work will be discussed in the following order:

We will first present our work on metal-free visible-light-promoted C(sp3)-H functionalization of aliphatic cyclic ethers using trace O2.  This reaction uses a trace amount of aerobic oxygen as the sole green oxidant under blue light at room temperature to achieve the synthesis of sulfone and phosphate derivatives in good to excellent yields using cyclic ethers and vinyl sulfones. Then, we report on a photo-induced C(sp3)-H chalcogenation of amide derivatives and ethers via a ligand-to-metal charge-transfer. This reaction converts secondary and tertiary amides, sulfonamides, and carbamates into the corresponding amido-N,S-acetal derivatives in good yields, using an earth abundant metal catalyst under mild conditions.

Finally, we present a photoredox polyfluoroarylation of alkyl halides via halogen atom transfer. This method converts primary, secondary, and tertiary unactivated abundant alkyl halides into the corresponding polyfluoroaryl compounds in good yields and has good functional group compatibility.


Degree Type

  • Doctor of Philosophy


  • Chemistry

Campus location

  • Indianapolis

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

Sébastien Laulhé

Additional Committee Member 2

Eric Long

Additional Committee Member 3

Robert E. Minto

Additional Committee Member 4

Jingzhi Pu

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