Do commercially available metal salts mediate calixarene formation via hydrogen-bonded dimers?

Sean P. Bew, Sunil V. Sharma

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3 Citations (Scopus)


In this article we report the first example of a Lewis acid promoted, one-pot, Brønsted acid free, high-yielding synthesis of the calixarene macrocycle from the "monomer" p-tert-butylphenol. We report that when a commercially available metal salt (Lewis acid) is incorporated within the calixarene-forming reaction, a certain amount of control over the size of the calixarenes produced can be gained. Although a detailed mechanistic rationale on how the macrocycle is assembled is unclear, what is evident fro this work is that the metal cation, the counteranion, and the oxidation state of the salt employed are all important contributors to the outcome of the reaction process. Indeed, evidence to date suggests that a subtle "symbiotic" relationship exists between the metal cation, its oxidation state, and the anion that allows the efficient transformation of the "monomeric" p-tert-butylphenol into linear oligomers and, ultimately, into macrocyclic calixarenes. Athough the metal salt mediated process described herein is efficient and high-yielding, what is also fundamentally important is that a comprehensive mechanistic understanding of how the calixarenes are assembled be accrued. Searching for possible indicators or clues, we propose that oligomeric methylene-linked phenolic entities are initially formed and that these, we tentatively suggest, generate metal and/or anion hydrogen-bonded supramolecular intermediates. It is possible that the preorganization of the linear polyphenolic oligomers allows the formation of hydrogen-bonded structures which, critically, result in the formation of supramolecular assemblies that are subsequently "stitched" together, generating the p-tert-butylcalix[n] arenes (n = 4-9) in excellent yields. Substantiating the possibility that hydrogen-bonded entities are generated (and that these subsequently afford metal-templated assemblies), we make reference to a seldom cited 1962 Nature publication that reported the propensity of polyphenolic linear oligomers to form "well-defined intramolecularly hydrogen-bonded conformations". © 2011 American Chemical Society.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)7076-7083
Number of pages8
JournalThe Journal of Organic Chemistry
Issue number17
Publication statusPublished - 2 Sep 2011

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