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Since the discovery of organic azides by Peter Grie more than 150 years ago, numerous syntheses of energy-rich azide molecules have been developed. In more recent times in particular, the use of azides in peptide chemistry, combinatorial chemistry, and heterocyclic synthesis has been extensively explored. Organic azides have assumed an important position at the interface between chemistry, biology, medicine, and materials science.
Sodium azide is a very powerful reagent which is used to prepared wide range of heterocyclic compounds such as tetrazole, triazole, and aziridines. Trimethylsilyl azide is used as an alternative to sodium azide, especially for the reactions that do not tolerate acidic or alkaline conditions or polar solvents. Azides are used as Detonators and propellants. One of the popular applications of azides is as a propellant in air bags.
For the synthesis of various types of organic compounds, several thermodynamically-favored reactions have been identified that lead specifically to one product, such as nucleophilic ring opening reactions of epoxides and aziridines, non-aldol type carbonyl reactions, such as formation of hydrazones and heterocycles, additions to carbon-carbon multiple bonds, such as oxidative formation of epoxides and Michael additions, and Cycloaddition reactions. The well-known reactions such as aza-Wittig reaction, Sundberg rearrangement, Staudinger ligation, Boyer and Boyer-Aub rearrangements, Curtius rearrangement, Schmidt rearrangement, and Hemetsberger rearrangement stand as witness to the versatile nature of azides.