The effects of an ionic liquid on unimolecular substitution processes

the importance of the extent of transition state solvation

Sinead T. Keaveney, Benjamin P. White, Ronald S. Haines, Jason B. Harper

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

21 Citations (Scopus)
31 Downloads (Pure)


The reaction of bromodiphenylmethane and 3-chloropyridine, which proceeds concurrently through both unimolecular and bimolecular mechanisms, was examined in mixtures of acetonitrile and an ionic liquid. As predicted, the bimolecular rate constant (k2) gradually increased as the amount of ionic liquid in the reaction mixture increased, as a result of a minor enthalpic cost offset by a more significant entropic benefit. Addition of an ionic liquid had a substantial effect on the unimolecular rate constant (k1) of the reaction, with at least a 5-fold rate enhancement relative to acetonitrile, which was found to be due to a significant decrease in the enthalpy of activation, partially offset by the associated decrease in the entropy of activation. This is in contrast to the effects seen previously for aliphatic carbocation formation, where the entropic cost dominated reaction outcome. This change is attributed to a lessened ionic liquid–transition state interaction, as the incipient charges in the transition state were delocalized across the neighbouring π systems. By varying the mole fraction of ionic liquid in the reaction mixture the ratio between k1 and k2 could be altered, highlighting the potential to use ionic liquids to control which pathway a reaction proceeds through.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2572-2580
Number of pages9
JournalOrganic and Biomolecular Chemistry
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 28 Feb 2016
Externally publishedYes

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