Tuesday, January 13, 2009
The Skraup Reaction - How to Make a Quinoline
Recently, Derek Lowe was discussing reactions he hadn't done at his blog In the Pipeline. Among these were, in his own words "the widely disliked Skraup cyclization for quinolines". This was somewhat surprising to me. I have very limited experience with the Skraup reaction but it has worked for me and one of my former colleagues said it had always been a great reaction in his hands. Personally I was surprised how well it worked considering the reaction conditions. This is what I did:
Easily the most extreme reaction conditions I have employed. Hardly surprising this is a lively reaction. Adding acrolein (boiling point of 53 oC) to a 70% sulfuric acid cocktail at 110 oC is rather exciting. Things are vaporising, spraying, hissing and instantly turns into jet black tarry goo. After 45 minutes the reaction is allowed to cool and then you attempt to work the black polymeric goo up with 25% aq. NaOH, brine and ethyl acetate. I suspect that the modest yield is due to loss of material during this annoying work-up. Scaling the reaction up is likely to improve the yield. The Skarup reaction is indeed performed on ridiculous industrial scale so it can't be all that bad. My system was rather elaborate containing two phenolic ethers and still I managed to pull out 47% and it was reproducible. Unfortunately, I cannot give full structural details as this was done in industry and I seem to recall some papers I signed explaining my life would end if I ever mentioned any of that stuff.
I should mention that it is rather important that you don't use too much acrolein as this will turn the whole thing into a rubbery solid (as I discovered) that is impossible to work with.