Extremely rapid self-reaction of the simplest Criegee intermediate CH2OO and its implications in atmospheric chemistry

Nat Chem. 2014 Jun;6(6):477-83. doi: 10.1038/nchem.1890. Epub 2014 Mar 23.


Criegee intermediates, which are carbonyl oxides produced when ozone reacts with unsaturated hydrocarbons, play an important role in the formation of OH and organic acids in the atmosphere, but they have eluded direct detection until recently. Reactions that involve Criegee intermediates are not understood fully because data based on their direct observation are limited. We used transient infrared absorption spectroscopy to probe directly the decay kinetics of formaldehyde oxide (CH2OO) and found that it reacts with itself extremely rapidly. This fast self-reaction is a result of its zwitterionic character. According to our quantum-chemical calculations, a cyclic dimeric intermediate that has the terminal O atom of one CH2OO bonded to the C atom of the other CH2OO is formed with large exothermicity before further decomposition to 2H2CO + O2((1)Δg). We suggest that the inclusion of this previously overlooked rapid reaction in models may affect the interpretation of previous laboratory experiments that involve Criegee intermediates.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Atmosphere*
  • Formaldehyde / chemistry*
  • Kinetics
  • Models, Theoretical*
  • Molecular Structure
  • Oxides / chemistry*


  • Oxides
  • Formaldehyde