Toward the Oxidation of the Phenyl Radical and Prevention of PAH Formation in Combustion Systems

J Phys Chem A. 2015 Jul 16;119(28):7145-54. doi: 10.1021/jp509170x. Epub 2014 Nov 13.


The reaction of the phenyl radical (C6H5) with molecular oxygen (O2) plays a central role in the degradation of poly- and monocyclic aromatic radicals in combustion systems which would otherwise react with fuel components to form polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and eventually soot. Despite intense theoretical and experimental scrutiny over half a century, the overall reaction channels have not all been experimentally identified. Tunable vacuum ultraviolet photoionization in conjunction with a combustion simulating chemical reactor uniquely provides the complete isomer specific product spectrum and branching ratios of this prototype reaction. In the reaction of phenyl radicals and molecular oxygen at 873 K and 1003 K, ortho-benzoquinone (o-C6H4O2), the phenoxy radical (C6H5O), and cyclopentadienyl radical (C5H5) were identified as primary products formed through emission of atomic hydrogen, atomic oxygen and carbon dioxide. Furan (C4H4O), acrolein (C3H4O), and ketene (C2H2O) were also identified as primary products formed through ring opening and fragmentation of the 7-membered ring 2-oxepinoxy radical. Secondary reaction products para-benzoquinone (p-C6H4O2), phenol (C6H5OH), cyclopentadiene (C5H6), 2,4-cyclopentadienone (C5H4O), vinylacetylene (C4H4), and acetylene (C2H2) were also identified. The pyranyl radical (C5H5O) was not detected; however, electronic structure calculations show that it is formed and isomerizes to 2,4-cyclopentadienone through atomic hydrogen emission. In combustion systems, barrierless phenyl-type radical oxidation reactions could even degrade more complex aromatic radicals. An understanding of these elementary processes is expected to lead to a better understanding toward the elimination of carcinogenic, mutagenic, and environmentally hazardous byproducts of combustion systems such as PAHs.