The reaction of 1,4-diols with dimethyl carbonate in the presence of a base led to selective and high-yielding syntheses of related five-membered cyclic ethers. This synthetic pathway has the potential for a wide range of applications. Distinctive cyclic ethers and industrially relevant compounds were synthesized in quantitative yield. The reaction mechanism for the cyclization was investigated. Notably, the chirality of the starting material was maintained. DFT calculations indicated that the formation of five-membered cyclic ethers was energetically the most favorable pathway. Typically, the selectivity exhibited by these systems could be rationalized on the basis of hard–soft acid–base theory. Such principles were applicable as far as computed energy barriers were concerned, but in practice cyclization reactions were shown to be entropically driven.
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