Skip to main content
Chemistry LibreTexts

Pericyclic Reactions

A pericyclic reaction is a concerted reaction in which the number of rings in the transition state is greater than the total number of rings in the reactant molecules.

  • Introduction to Pericyclic Reactions
    An important body of chemical reactions, differing from ionic or free radical reactions in a number of respects, has been recognized and extensively studied. Since reactions of this kind often proceed by nearly simultaneous reorganization of bonding electron pairs by way of cyclic transition states, they have been termed pericyclic reactions. The four principle classes of pericyclic reactions are termed: Cycloaddition, Electrocyclic, Sigmatropic, and Ene Reactions.
  • A Useful Mnemonic Rule
    Before pericyclic reactions can be put to use in a predictable and controlled manner, a broad mechanistic understanding of the factors that influence these concerted transformations must be formulated. The simplest, albeit least rigorous, method for predicting the configurational path favored by a proposed pericyclic reaction is based upon a transition state electron count.
  • Cope Rearrangement
    The Cope rearrangement, not to be confused with the Cope elimination, is the conversion of a 1,5-diene to a more stable, constitutionally isomeric 1,5-diene at a very high temperature​:
  • Cycloaddition Reactions
    A concerted combination of two π-electron systems to form a ring of atoms having two new σ bonds and two fewer π bonds is called a cycloaddition reaction. The number of participating π-electrons in each component is given in brackets preceding the name, and the reorganization of electrons may be depicted by a cycle of curved arrows - each representing the movement of a pair of electrons.
  • Electrocyclic Reactions
    An electrocyclic reaction is the concerted cyclization of a conjugated π-electron system by converting one π-bond to a ring forming σ-bond. The reverse reaction may be called electrocyclic ring opening.
  • Ene Reactions
    The joining of a double or triple bond to an alkene reactant having a transferable allylic hydrogen is called an ene reaction. The reverse process is called a retro ene reaction.
  • Sigmatropic Rearrangements
    Molecular rearrangements in which a σ-bonded atom or group, flanked by one or more π-electron systems, shifts to a new location with a corresponding reorganization of the π-bonds are called sigmatropic reactions. The total number of σ-bonds and π-bonds remain unchanged. These rearrangements are described by two numbers set in brackets, which refer to the relative distance (in atoms) each end of the σ-bond has moved.
  • Stereochemical Notations
    One characteristic shared by most pericyclic reactions, and noted in many cases described above, is their stereospecificity. This is not the first class of reactions for which a characteristic stereospecificity has been noted. Substitution reactions may proceed randomly or by "inversion" or "retention" of configuration. Elimination reactions may occur in an "anti" or "syn" fashion, or may be configurationally random. The terms "syn" and "anti" have also been applied to 1,2-addition reactions.
  • Theoretical Models for Pericyclic Reactions
    Concerted reactions proceed most readily when there is congruence between the orbital symmetries of the reactants and products. In other words, when the bonding character of all occupied molecular orbitals is preserved at all stages of a concerted molecular reorganization, that reaction will most likely take place. The greater the degree of bonding found in the transition state for the reaction, the lower will be its activation energy and the greater will be the reaction rate.