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The diazogroup is an organic moiety consisting of two linked nitrogen atoms (azo) at the terminal position. Overall charge neutral organic compounds containing the diazo group bound to a carbon atom are called diazo compounds or diazoalkanes and are described by the general structural formula R2C=N+=N-. The simplest example of a diazo compound is diazomethane, CH2N2. Diazo compounds (R2C=N2) should not be confused with azo compounds of the type R-N=N-R or with diazonium compounds of the type R-N2+.
The electronic structure of diazo compounds is characterized by ? electron density delocalized over the ?-carbon and two nitrogen atoms, along with an orthogonal ? system with electron density delocalized over only the terminal nitrogen atoms. Because all octet rule-satisfying resonance forms of diazo compounds have formal charges, they are members of a class of compounds known as 1,3-dipoles. Some of the most stable diazo compounds are ?-diazo-?-diketones and ?-diazo-?-diesters, in which the electron density is further delocalized into an electron-withdrawing carbonyl group. In contrast, most diazoalkanes without electron-withdrawing substituents, including diazomethane itself, are explosive. A commercially relevant diazo compound is ethyl diazoacetate (N2CHCOOEt). A group of isomeric compounds with only few similar properties are the diazirines, where the carbon and two nitrogens are linked as a ring.
Compounds with the diazo moiety should be distinguished from diazonium compounds, which have the same terminal azo group but bear an overall positive charge, and azo compounds in which the azo group bridges two organic substituents.
Diazo compounds were first produced by Peter Griess who had discovered a versatile new chemical reaction, as detailed in his 1858 paper "Preliminary notice on the influence of nitrous acid on aminonitro- and aminodinitrophenol."
Several methods exist for the preparation of diazo compounds.
Alpha-acceptor-substituted primary aliphatic amines R-CH2-NH2 (R = COOR, CN, CHO, COR) react with nitrous acid to generate the diazo compound.
In diazo transfer certain carbon acids react with tosyl azide in the presence of a weak base like triethylamine or DBU. The byproduct is the corresponding tosylamide (p-toluenesulfonamide). This reaction is also called the Regitz diazo transfer. Examples are the synthesis of tert-butyl diazoacetate and diazomalonate.Methyl phenyldiazoacetate is generated in this way by treating methyl phenylacetate with p-acetamidobenzenesulfonyl azide in the presence of base.
Solid state structure of the diazo compound t-BuO2CC(N2)C6H4NO2. Key distances: C-N = 1.329 Å, N-N = 1.121 Å.
The mechanism involves attack of the enolate at the terminal nitrogen, proton transfer, and expulsion of the anion of the sulfonamide. Use of the ?-carbonyl aldehyde leads to a deformylative variant of the Regitz transfer, which is useful for the preparation of diazo compounds stabilized by only one carbonyl group.
From N-alkyl-N-nitroso compounds
Diazo compounds can be obtained in an elimination reaction of N-alkyl-N-nitroso compounds, such as in the synthesis of diazomethane from Diazald or MNNG:
(The mechanism shown here is one possibility. For an alternative mechanism for the analogous formation of diazomethane from an N-nitrososulfonamide, see the page on Diazald.)
Reaction of a carbonyl group with the hydrazine 1,2-bis(tert-butyldimethylsilyl)hydrazine to form the hydrazone is followed by reaction with the iodane difluoroiodobenzene yields the diazo compound:
Two families of naturally occurring products feature the diazo group: kinamycin and lomaiviticin. These molecules are DNA-intercalators, with diazo functionality as their "warheads". Loss of N2, induced reductively, generates a DNA-cleaving fluorenyl radical.
^The term diazoalkane is used by some authors to refer to any substituted diazomethane (i.e., all diazo compounds). However, other authors use the term to refer exclusively to diazo compounds with alkyl substituents that do not contain other functional groups (which would exclude compounds like diazo(diphenyl)methane or ethyl diazoacetate).
^Lei, X.; Porco Ja, J. (2006). "Total synthesis of the diazobenzofluorene antibiotic (-)-kinamycin C1". Journal of the American Chemical Society. 128 (46): 14790-14791. doi:10.1021/ja066621v. PMID17105273.