Single Two-Electron Transfers vs Successive One-Electron Transfers in Polyconjugated Systems Illustrated by the Electrochemical Oxidation and Reduction of Carotenoids

J Am Chem Soc. 2001 Jul 11;123(27):6669-77. doi: 10.1021/ja0106063.


Examination of cyclic voltammetric responses reveals that inversion of the standard potentials of the first and second electron transfers occurs in the oxidation of beta-carotene and 15,15'-didehydro-beta-carotene (but not in their reduction) as well as in the reduction of canthaxanthin (but not in its oxidation). The factors that control potential inversion in these systems, and more generally in symmetrical molecules containing conjugated long chains, are investigated by quantum chemical calculations. Two main interconnected effects emerge. One is the localization of the charges in the di-ion toward the ends of the molecule at a large distance from one another, thus minimizing Coulombic repulsion. The same effect favors the solvation of the di-ion providing additional stabilization. In contrast, the charge in the ion radical is delocalized over the whole molecular framework, thus disfavoring its stabilization by interaction with the solvent. The combination of the two solvation effects allows potential inversion to occur as opposed to the case where the two electrophores are linked by a saturated bridge where potential inversion cannot occur. Localization of the charges in the di-ion, and thus potential inversion, is favored by the presence of electron-accepting terminal groups for reductions (as the two carbonyl groups in canthaxanthin) and of hole-accepting terminal groups for oxidations (as in beta-carotene).

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Carotenoids / chemistry*
  • Electrochemistry
  • Electron Transport*
  • Oxidation-Reduction
  • Quantum Theory


  • Carotenoids