Silylation is the introduction of a (usually) substituted silyl group (R3Si) to a molecule. The process is the basis of organosilicon chemistry.
Silylation of organic compounds
Alcohols, carboxylic acids, amines, thiols, and phosphates can be silylated. The process involves the replacement of a proton with a trialkylsilyl group, typically trimethylsilyl (-SiMe3). Generally the substrate is deprotonated with a suitable strong base followed by treatment with a silyl chloride (e.g. trimethylsilyl chloride). Often strong bases such butyl lithium or a Grignard reagent are used, as illustrated by the synthesis of a trimethylsilyl ethers as protecting groups from an alcohol:
- ROH + BuLi → ROLi + BuH
- ROLi + Me3SiCl → ROSiMe3 + LiCl
Silyl derivatives are generally less polar and more thermally stable than their precursor organic compound. The introduction of a silyl group(s) gives derivatives of enhanced volatility, making the derivatives suitable for analysis by gas chromatography and electron-impact mass spectrometry (EI-MS). For EI-MS, the silyl derivatives give more favorable diagnostic fragmentation patterns of use in structure investigations, or characteristic ions of use in trace analyses employing selected ion monitoring and related techniques.
Desilylation is the reverse of silylation: the silyl group is exchanged for a proton. Various fluoride salts (e.g. sodium, potassium, tetra-n-butylammonium fluorides) are popular for this purpose.
- ROSiMe3 + F- + H2O → ROH + FSiMe3 + OH-
Silylation of metals
Coordination complexes with silyl ligands are well known. An early example is CpFe(CO)2Si(CH3)3. Metal silyl complexes are important intermediates in hydrosilation, a process used to make organosilicon compounds.
- Mercedes Amat, Sabine Hadida, Swargam Sathyanarayana, and Joan Bosch "Regioselective Synthesis of 3-Substituted Indoles: 3-Ethylindole" Organic Syntheses 1997, volume 74, page 248. doi:10.15227/orgsyn.074.0248
- Nina Gommermann and Paul Knochel "N,N-Dibenzyl-n-[1-cyclohexyl-3-(trimethylsilyl)-2-propynyl]-amine from Cyclohexanecarbaldehyde, Trimethylsilylacetylene and Dibenzylamine" Organic Syntheses 2007, vol. 84, page 1. doi:10.15227/orgsyn.084.0001
- Moris S. Eisen "Transition-metal silyl complexes" in The Chemistry of Organic Silicon Compounds. Volume 2 Edited by Zvi Rappoport and Yitzhak Apeloig, 1998, John Wiley & Sons.