Reaction dynamics of the 4-methylphenyl radical (p-tolyl) with 1,2-butadiene (1-methylallene): are methyl groups purely spectators?

J Phys Chem A. 2014 Aug 14;118(32):6181-90. doi: 10.1021/jp505868q. Epub 2014 Aug 1.


The reactions of the 4-tolyl radical (C6H4CH3) and of the D7-4-tolyl radical (C6D4CD3) with 1,2-butadiene (C4H6) have been probed in crossed molecular beams under single collision conditions at a collision energy of about 54 kJ mol(-1) and studied theoretically using ab initio G3(MP2,CC)//B3LYP/6-311G** and statistical RRKM calculations. The results show that the reaction proceeds via indirect scattering dynamics through the formation of a van-der-Waals complex followed by the addition of the radical center of the 4-tolyl radical to the C1 or C3 carbon atoms of 1,2-butadiene. The collision complexes then isomerize by migration of the tolyl group from the C1 (C3) to the C2 carbon atom of the 1,2-butadiene moiety. The resulting intermediate undergoes unimolecular decomposition via elimination of a hydrogen atom from the methyl group of the 1,2-butadiene moiety through a rather loose exit transition state leading to 2-para-tolyl-1,3-butadiene (p4), which likely presents the major reaction product. Our observation combined with theoretical calculations suggest that one methyl group (at the phenyl group) acts as a spectator in the reaction, whereas the other one (at the allene moiety) is actively engaged in the underlying chemical dynamics. On the contrary to the reaction of the phenyl radical with allene, which leads to the formation of indene, the substitution of a hydrogen atom by a methyl group in allene essentially eliminates the formation of bicyclic PAHs such as substituted indenes in the 4-tolyl plus 1,2-butadiene reaction.