Ketenes were first studied as a class by Hermann Staudinger.
- CH3−CO−CH3 + ΔT → CH2=C=O + CH4
This reaction is called the Schmidlin ketene synthesis.
Ketenes can also be formed from α-diazoketones by Wolff rearrangement.
Another way to generate ketenes is through flash vacuum thermolysis with 2-pyridylamines. Plug and Werdup developed a method in 1997 that improved on FVT reactions to produce ketenes with a stable FVT that is moisture insensitive, using mild conditions (480 °C). The N-pyridylamines are prepared via a condensation with R-malonates with N-amino(pyridene) and DCC as the solvent.
Ketenes are generally very reactive, and participate in various cycloadditions. They will also undergo [2+2] cycloaddition reactions with electron-rich alkynes to form cyclobutenones, or carbonyl groups to form beta-lactones. With imines beta-lactams are formed. This is the Staudinger synthesis, a facile route to this important class of compounds. With acetone, ketene reacts to give Isopropenyl acetate.
Ethyl acetoacetate, a very important starting material in organic synthesis, can be prepared using a diketene in reaction with ethanol. They directly form ethyl acetoacetate, and the yield is high when carried out under controlled circumstances; this method is therefore used industrially.
- Hermann Staudinger (1905). "Ketene, eine neue Körperklasse" [Ketenes, a new class of substances]. Berichte der deutschen chemischen Gesellschaft. 38 (2): 1735–1739. doi:10.1002/cber.19050380283.
- Ketene in Organic Syntheses Organic Syntheses, Submitted by C. D. Hurd Checked by Oliver Kamm Coll. Vol. 1, p.330 (1941); Vol. 4, p.39 (1925). Link
- Julius Schmidlin and Maximilian Bergman (1910) "Darstellung des Ketens aus Aceton" (Preparation of ketene from acetone), Berichte der deutschen chemischen Gesellschaft, 43 (3) : 2821-2823.