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RE: ORGLIST: NaH/DMF reaction Hazards

From: Andrew Molder <andrew.molder>
Subject: RE: ORGLIST: NaH/DMF reaction Hazards
Date: Sat, 30 Jun 2012 00:39:42 -0500

Isn't fire and drugs why we all got in to chemistry any ways?

On Jun 29, 2012 6:30 PM, "Ismail, Fyaz" <F.M.Ismail> wrote:

Dear Colleagues,


As pointed out, such reactions are highly unpredictable So extreme caution is required. When used with DMF, NaH has the propensity to ignite spontaneously, so much so that fires on scale up led to investigations into the optimal method of extinguishing them [1]. Students are always advised to carefully read the literature and consult the MSDS sheets before undertaking a reaction unknown to them.


Whilst undertaking a Monsanto Fellowship at Reading (1989-1991), I witnessed the almost complete destruction of a laboratory due to such an explosion that was followed by a raging fire. The most memorable part of the incident was the firemen throwing out a flaming IR spectrometer out of the top floor window which, much to the disappointment of the crowd in the car park, narrowly missed the then head of Departments BMW. Subsequently, a reinforced area on the roof of the building was used to try such reactions albeit on a small scale.


Fyaz M. D. Ismail, B.Sc, Ph.D.

Laboratory of Medicinal Chemistry





[1] Fluegeman, C.; Hilton, T.; Moder, K.P.; Stankovich, R. Proc. Safety Prog. 2005, 24, 86-90.


From: orglist-everybody [mailto:orglist-everybody] On Behalf Of vinutha hanumaiah
Sent: 28 June 2012 18:35
To: orglist-everybody
Subject: Re: ORGLIST: NaH reaction


Thanks Graham, 


I asked several people about heating NaH/DMF., as I hav not come across any such reactions till date. But I have observed dat NaH/DMSO at RT on larger scale ends in fire. This is one of t reason am avoiding heating of NaH reaction.. But am trying with KOH n Cs2CO3 for t same. Its surprising dat the reactions goes but yields are very less and change in the conditions like solvent DMF to THF (reaction doesn't goes in that case) and warming upto RT also.. Lets wait for the KOH n Cs2CO3 method.. 


Many thanks 



On Thursday, June 28, 2012, Graham Cumming wrote:

Why, since it has been known for so long (30 years) that NaH/DMF is a
dangerous combination, do people still use it?

NaH and DMF can (not often, but you don´t want to be there if it does)
result in a thermal runaway, with the solvent decomposing to gaseous
products - at best, the potential for a mess in the fumehood, at worst
glass and hot reactants flying across the lab.  While such a runaway
typically happens above 50 degC, calorimetry data shows exothermic
behaviour even at 20 degC.

I´m not aware of incidents on a small scale (is anyone else?) but if
we all stopped using (and publishing) this combination for small scale
reactions, then people would be less tempted to use it later on larger
scales.  Related solvents (NMP, DMA) and DMSO may be less prone, but
can still ´go off´ in the same way.

For your specific reaction, 2-chlorophenol is easy to deprotonate, as
the proton is pretty acidic.  NaH is more than sufficient.  For
alkylation, K2CO3 or Cs2CO3 will normally be enough (DMF at room temp,
or THF or toluene at reflux), and often (at 100 degC or more) is
sufficient for SnAr reaction too, since you have not specified what
your reaction is.

Just to reiterate - do NOT heat NaH/DMF, it is not safe.

With NaH/DMF, the most obvious reason for failure is water - either
your NaH is ´dead´ (the 60% in oil grade should be grey, not white) -
if the bottle is old, this is probably the case.  Also, DMF and
similar solvents are very difficult to dry, and unless you have
specifically done so it is almost certainly too ´wet´ for NaH.  If gas
evolves when you add NaH to DMF without the phenol, this shows it is
wet.  But in any case, NaOH (teh result of water + NaH) is still a
strong enough base to deprotonate 2-chlorphenol.

On 27/06/2012, vinutha hanumaiah <> wrote:
> Hi all,
> Am doing a regioselective reaction with  2- chlorophenol and a substituted
> pyridine in DMF.  It seems the phenol is not deprotonated completely in the
> reaction ending up with less yield. Is it possible to heat the reaction
> mixture? I have never done heating with NaH. Please can anyone suggest me
> anyother strong base for deprotonation of phenol or suggest ideas to
> improve yeilds?
> Thanks,
> Thanu

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