Formation of the phenyl radical [C6H5(X(2)A1)] under single collision conditions: a crossed molecular beam and ab initio study

J Am Chem Soc. 2010 Mar 3;132(8):2672-83. doi: 10.1021/ja908559v.


Reactions of dicarbon molecules (C(2)) with C(4)H(6) isomers such as 1,3-butadiene represent a potential, but hitherto unnoticed, route to synthesize the first aromatic C(6) ring in hydrocarbon flames and in the interstellar medium where concentrations of dicarbon transient species are significant. Here, crossed molecular beams experiments of dicarbon molecules in their X(1)Sigma(g)(+) electronic ground state and in the first electronically excited a(3)Pi(u) state have been conducted with 1,3-butadiene and two partially deuterated counterparts (1,1,4,4-D4-1,3-butadiene and 2,3-D2-1,3-butadiene) at two collision energies of 12.7 and 33.7 kJ mol(-1). Combining these scattering experiments with electronic structure and RRKM calculations on the singlet and triplet C(6)H(6) surfaces, our investigation reveals that the aromatic phenyl radical is formed predominantly on the triplet surface via indirect scattering dynamics through a long-lived reaction intermediate. Initiated by a barrierless addition of triplet dicarbon to one of the terminal carbon atoms of 1,3-butadiene, the collision complex undergoes trans-cis isomerization followed by ring closure and hydrogen migration prior to hydrogen atom elimination, ultimately forming the phenyl radical. The latter step emits the hydrogen atom almost perpendicularly to the rotational plane of the decomposing intermediate and almost parallel to the total angular momentum vector. On the singlet surface, smaller contributions of phenyl radical could not be excluded; experiments with partially deuterated 1,3-butadiene indicate the formation of the thermodynamically less stable acyclic H(2)CCHCCCCH(2) isomer. This study presents the very first experimental evidence, contemplated by theoretical studies, that under single collision conditions an aromatic hydrocarbon molecule can be formed in a bimolecular gas-phase reaction via reaction of two acyclic molecules involving cyclization processes at collision energies highly relevant to combustion flames.