Topics in Catalysis

, Volume 61, Issue 7–8, pp 636–642 | Cite as

Iodine Activation of Alcohols: A Computational Study

  • Gabriela L. Borosky
  • Stojan Stavber
  • Kenneth K. Laali
Original Paper


A DFT study aimed at unravelling the origin of catalytic activity of iodine in reaction with alcohols is presented. Computed free energies for generation of the O–I complexes from the separated reactants are around 3 kcal/mol and solvation increases endoergicity by ca. 1 kcal/mol. Calculations suggest that halogen bond formation between I2 and alcohols does not lead to strong activation of the hydroxyl as a leaving group, although solvent has a notable effect in lowering endoergicity for carbocation formation. Model tertiary alcohols exhibited β-proton abstraction following breaking of the C–O bond, while model secondary and primary alcohols experienced an earlier β-proton abstraction, synchronic with the C–O bond cleavage. Consistent with computed natural bond orbital charges, benzylic and propargylic alcohols underwent iodide anion quenching at the para position of phenyl and C-3, respectively.

Graphical Abstract


Catalysis by iodine Halogen bonding DFT calculations Activation of alcohols 



We thank the University of Florida for access to computational facilities at UF High-Performance Computing Center. Access to computational resources at Mendieta cluster from CCAD-UNC, which is part of SNCAD-MinCyT, Argentina, is also acknowledged. GLB acknowledges funding from CONICET and Secyt-UNC. S. S. acknowledges the Slovenian Research Agency (Programme P1-0134) for financial support and helpful discussions with Dr. Anton Kokalj (Jožef Stefan Institute).

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

11244_2018_918_MOESM1_ESM.docx (23 kb)
Supplementary material 1. Cartesian coordinates for optimized noncovalent complexes of alcohols with I2. (DOCX 23 KB)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.INFIQC, Departamento de Química Teórica y Computacional, Facultad de Ciencias QuímicasCONICET and Universidad Nacional de CórdobaCórdobaArgentina
  2. 2.Department of Physical and Organic ChemistryJožef Stefan InstituteLjubljanaSlovenia
  3. 3.Department of ChemistryUniversity of North FloridaJacksonvilleUSA

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