Frustrated radical pairs cleave unactivated C–H bonds

Broken chain link

Source: © Malte Mueller/Getty Images

New technique targets previously inaccessible bonds for selective C–H activation

Pairs of frustrated radical species can selectively activate carbon–hydrogen bonds that were previously inaccessible with existing methods. The reagents are easily tuned, allowing them to target different C–H bonds on substrate molecules as required.

Reactions that activate aliphatic C–H bonds are very useful in organic chemistry, but the stability of these ubiquitous bonds makes selective functionalisation particularly challenging. Current strategies include transition metal catalysis and enzymatic methods, but these approaches tend to have limited functional group tolerance and often only target the most reactive bonds.