The production of vitamin D3 is a pharmaceutically relevant process, producing high added-value products. Precursors are extracts from vegetal origin but bearing mainly an E geometry in the 5,6 double bond. The synthesis of vitamin D3 (5-E-α-calcidol) with the correct Z stereochemistry in the 5,6 double bond from the E isomer using anthracene and triethylamine (TEA) as the sensitizer system was studied from the kinetic and mechanistic point of view. The sensitized isomerization of E-calcidol by irradiation of anthracene takes place only in deoxygenated solution and yields the Z isomer in ca 5% yield in the photostationary state. When TEA is added to the system, the E-Z reaction is not inhibited by oxygen any more, the quantum yield of photoisomerization to the Z isomer grows linearly with the concentration of E-calcidol, while conversions higher than 95% to the Z isomer are reached in the photostationary state and E-Z quantum yields as high as 45 at [E-calcidol] = 25 mM are reached. If TEA is replaced by 1,4-diazabicyclo[2.2.2]octane, the reaction rate drops to one-third at the same amine concentration. The observations can be explained by a quantum chain reaction mechanism. The high conversion achieved eliminates the need of isomer separation.
© 2011 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Photochemistry and Photobiology © 2011 The American Society of Photobiology.