Measurement of the Proton Affinities of a Series of Mono- and Biradicals of Pyridine

J Am Chem Soc. 2020 May 13;142(19):8679-8687. doi: 10.1021/jacs.0c00202. Epub 2020 May 4.


The proton affinity (PA) of a neutral molecule is defined as the negative of the enthalpy change for the gas-phase reaction between a proton and the neutral molecule to produce the (charged) conjugate acid of the molecule. PA is a fundamental property that is related to the structure of a molecule and affects its reactivity. Very few PA values are available for basic organic monoradicals and none for biradicals. Here, the PA values for several σ-type carbon-centered pyridine-based monoradicals and biradicals have been experimentally determined by monitoring proton transfer from the protonated mono- and biradicals to reference bases with known proton affinities as a function of time in Fourier-transform ion cyclotron resonance (FT-ICR) and linear quadrupole ion trap (LQIT) mass spectrometers. A procedure was developed for both instruments that permits differentiation between exo- and endothermic proton transfer reactions. The PA values of all the (bi)radicals studied were found to be lower than that of pyridine. This is rationalized based on the electron-withdrawing nature of the radical site(s). Thus, the PA values decrease in the order: pyridine > monoradicals > biradicals. The PA values of the monoradicals were also found to increase (making the protonated radicals less acidic) as the distance between the basic nitrogen atom and the radical site increases. Similar behavior was found for the biradicals, with one exception: 3,5-didehydropyridine has a larger PA (215.3 ± 3.3 kcal mol-1) than 3,4-didehydropyridine (PA = 213.4 ± 3.3 kcal mol-1) even though the latter biradical has one radical site farther away from the basic nitrogen atom. Quantum chemical calculations of the PAs of the (bi)radicals are in reasonably good agreement with the experimentally determined values. At the DFT (B3LYP), CCSD(T), and CASPT2 levels of theory, the mean unsigned errors are 2.3, 1.7, and 2.1 kcal mol-1.

Publication types

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