Photoredox Activation of Carbon Dioxide for Amino Acid Synthesis in Continuous Flow

Nature Chemistry 9, 453–456, DOI: 10.1038/NCHEM.2690

Although carbon dioxide (CO2) is highly abundant, its low reactivity has limited its use in chemical synthesis. In particular, methods for carbon–carbon bond formation generally rely on two-electron mechanisms for CO2 activation and require highly activated reaction partners. Alternatively, radical pathways accessed via photoredox catalysis could provide new reactivity under milder conditions. Here we demonstrate the direct coupling of CO2 and amines via the single-electron reduction of CO2 for the photoredox-catalysed continuous flow synthesis of α-amino acids. By leveraging the advantages of utilizing gases and photochemistry in flow, a commercially available organic photoredox catalyst effects the selective α-carboxylation of amines that bear various functional groups and heterocycles. The preliminary mechanistic studies support CO2 activation and carbon–carbon bond formation via single-electron pathways, and we expect that this strategy will inspire new perspectives on using this feedstock chemical in organic synthesis.