• amines;
  • heterocycles;
  • heterogeneous catalysis;
  • hydrogen transfer;
  • microwave chemistry


The synthesis of benzimidazoles starting from o-phenylenediamines and amines in the presence of palladium on charcoal as catalyst is reported. Under microwave dielectric heating it is possible to use a tertiary, a secondary, and even a primary amine as the substrate for a palladium-mediated process to get 2-substituted or 1,2-disubstituted benzimidazoles, depending on the nature of the o-phenylenediamine employed. Primary amines are the most suitable reagents for the atom economy of the overall process that resulted to be general as several different substituted benzimidazoles were obtained in good yield. Benzoxazoles can be also prepared starting from primary amines and o-aminophenol. The reaction is also highly selective as no (poly)-alkylated phenylenediamines or cross-contaminated benzimidazoles are obtained starting from N-monoalkylphenylenediamines. This behavior was interpreted as a scarce aptitude to dehydrogenation of the methylene bonded to the aromatic NH of N-alkylarylamines. The experiments carried out consent to draw an almost complete picture of the reaction pathways occurring during the process. The catalyst can be recycled several times and, although far from optimal performances, catalyst TON=90 is encouraging for further large-scale optimization protocols. In addition, the palladium on charcoal-catalyzed microwave-assisted reaction of o-phenylenediamine gives de-alkylation of tertiary amines and transformation into the secondary ones.