The first organocadmium compounds, dimethylcadmium, CH3-Cd-CH3 and diethylcadmium CH3CH2-Cd-CH2CH3 were prepared in 1917 by Erich Krause. In general they are prepared by transmetalation or by an exchange reaction between an organometallic reagent and a cadmium salt.
One procedure for synthesis diethylcadmium is by reaction of cadmium bromide with two equivalents of the Grignard reagent ethylmagnesium bromide in diethyl ether. A byproduct is magnesium bromide. Diethylcadmium is a colorless oil with melting point −21 °C.
Diphenylcadmium can be prepared by reaction of phenyllithium with the same salt . This solid has a melting point of 174 °C
An example of the synthetic use of an organocadmium is the reaction of diisoamylcadmium with β-carbomethoxypropionyl chloride to methyl 4-keto-7-methyloctanoate without reacting further with the ketone group or the ester group.
Dimethylcadmium is also used in the synthesis of colloidal nanocrystals although its toxic and volatile nature has led researchers to look elsewhere for Cadmium precursors such as Cadmium Oxide.
This selectivity exists provided that the reaction is carried out salt free . When the cadmium reagent is generated in situ from a cadmium salt, the presence of a halide salt makes the reagent much more reactive, even to ketones. the same salt effect can be observed in organozinc compounds.