Simmons-Smith reaction in progress
The Simmons–Smith reaction is an organic cheletropic reaction involving an organozinc carbenoid that reacts with an alkene (or alkyne) to form a cyclopropane. It is named after Howard Ensign Simmons, Jr. and Ronald D. Smith. It uses a methylene free radical intermediate that is delivered to both carbons of the alkene simultaneously, therefore the configuration of the double bond is preserved in the product and the reaction is stereospecific.
The Simmons–Smith reaction is generally preferred over other methods of cyclopropanation, however it can be expensive due to the high cost of diiodomethane. Modifications involving cheaper alternatives have been developed, such as dibromomethane or diazomethane and zinc iodide. The reactivity of the system can also be increased by exchanging the zinc‑copper couple for diethylzinc, however as this reagent is pyrophoric it must be handled carefully.
The Simmons–Smith reaction is generally subject to steric effects, and thus cyclopropanation usually takes place on the less hindered face. However, when a hydroxy substituent is present in the substrate in proximity to the double bond, the zinc coordinates with the hydroxy substituent, directing cyclopropanation cis to the hydroxyl group (which may not correspond to cyclopropanation of the sterically most accessible face of the double bond): An interactive 3D model of this reaction can be seen here (java required).
The Simmons–Smith reagent, namely diiodomethane and diethylzinc, can react with allylic thioethers to generate sulfur ylides, which can subsequently undergo a 2,3-sigmatropic rearrangement, and will not cyclopropanate an alkene in the same molecule unless excess Simmons–Smith reagent is used:
Asymmetric Simmons–Smith reaction
Although asymmetric cyclopropanation methods based on diazo compounds (see bisoxazoline ligand) exist since 1966, the asymmetric Simmons–Smith reaction was introduced in 1992  with a reaction of cinnamyl alcohol with diethylzinc, diiodomethane and a chiral disulfonamide in dichloromethane:
The hydroxyl group is a prerequisite serving as an anchor for zinc. An interactive 3D model of a similar reaction can be seen here (java required). In another version of this reaction the ligand is based on salen and Lewis acid DIBAL is added:
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