Nitrogen-containing compounds, especially primary amines, are vital building blocks in nature and industry. Herein, a protocol is developed that shows in situ formed N-formyl quasi-catalytic species afford highly selective synthesis of formamides or amines with controllable levels from a variety of aldehyde- and ketone-derived platform chemical substrates under solvent-free conditions. Up to 99% yields of mono-substituted formamides are obtained in 3 min. The C-N bond formation and N-formyl species are prevalent in the cascade reaction sequence. Kinetic and isotope labeling experiments explicitly demonstrate that the C-N bond is activated for subsequent hydrogenation, in which formic acid acts as acid catalyst, hydrogen donor and as N-formyl species source that stabilize amine intermediates elucidated with density functional theory. The protocol provides access to imides from aldehydes, ketones, carboxylic acids, and mixed-substrates, requires no special catalysts, solvents or techniques and provides new avenues for amination chemistry.
Processes for efficient production of primary, secondary or ternary aminated compounds are constant challenges for chemical and pharmaceutical industries. Here, the authors develop selective and sustainable amination chemistry widely applicable to chemical substrates via formic acid.