The ionic liquid, tributylmethylammonium methylcarbonate, has been employed as a catalytic base for clean N-methylation of indole with dimethylcarbonate. The reaction conditions were optimised under microwave heating to give 100% conversion and 100% selectivity to N-methylindole, and subsequently transferred to a high temperature/high pressure (285 degrees C/150 bar) continuous flow process using a short (3 min) residence time and 2 mol% of the catalyst to efficiently methylate a variety of different amines, phenols, thiophenols and carboxylic acid substrates. The extremely short residence times, versatility, and high selectivity have significant implications for the synthesis of a wide range of pharmaceutical intermediates, as high product throughputs can be obtained via this scalable continuous flow protocol. It has also been shown that the ionic liquid can be generated in situ from tributylamine, which has the net effect of transforming an ineffective stoichiometric base into a highly efficient catalyst for this broad class of reactions.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Environmental Chemistry