Beilstein J Org Chem. 2023 Aug 15;19:1225-1233. doi: 10.3762/bjoc.19.90. eCollection 2023.
The place of alkyl radicals in organic chemistry has changed markedly over the last several decades, evolving from challenging-to-generate “uncontrollable” species prone to side reactions to versatile reactive intermediates enabling construction of myriad C-C and C-X bonds. This maturation of free radical chemistry has been enabled by several advances, including the proliferation of efficient radical generation methods, such as hydrogen atom transfer (HAT), alkene addition, and decarboxylation. At least as important has been innovation in radical functionalization methods, including radical-polar crossover (RPC), enabling these intermediates to be engaged in productive and efficient bond-forming steps. However, direct engagement of alkyl radicals remains challenging. Among these functionalization approaches, a bio-inspired mechanistic paradigm known as radical ligand transfer (RLT) has emerged as a particularly promising and versatile means of forming new bonds catalytically to alkyl radicals. This development has been driven by several key features of RLT catalysis, including the ability to form diverse bonds (including C-X, C-N, and C-S), the use of simple earth abundant element catalysts, and the intrinsic compatibility of this approach with varied radical generation methods, including HAT, radical addition, and decarboxylation. Here, we provide an overview of the evolution of RLT catalysis from initial studies to recent advances and provide a conceptual framework we hope will inspire and enable future work using this versatile elementary step.