The spectacular “NaH catalytic” oxidation recently published in JACS has been thoroughly covered elsewhere. I would like to bring your attention to another jaw-dropping paper that just came out in Org Letters:
Acetophenones and 1-aryl-ethanols are oxidized to benzamides by heating the material with 3 – 4 equivs of iodine and ammonia in a pressure vessel. There is only a passing reference and footnote that “nitrogen triodide might form in the mix.”
In fact, NI3.NH3 readily precipitates upon mixing iodine with aqueous ammonia. (The products vary; a gradual iodine addition to a large excess of ammonia yields ammonium iodide and nitrogen.) Nitrogen triodide is a notoriously super-sensitive primary explosive. I spent some time hospitalized in eye clinic when I was ten years old – my corneas got burned with iodine and my eardrums ruptured because of playing with a spoonful of nitrogen triodide. (The window pane flew out and I was thrown to the ground by the blast; it took me half a year to fully recover and this all was from few grams of dry material going poof, unconstrained). I cannot warn strongly enough against mixing iodine with ammonia in a pressure flask and then heating the stuff up!
The authors run these experiments on a 1 mmol scale and they give no details about the order of addition. Since the transformation is pretty useful – with a good substrate scope and it looks simple enough (its done in water) – sooner or later some innocent person is bound to mix up a big batch in the wrong way – and as he screws on the the pressure vessel cap he is gonna blow himself up into a mauve cloud…