Bond Length Alternation and Internal Dynamics in Model Aromatic Substituents of Lignin

Chemphyschem. 2022 Mar 18;23(6):e202100808. doi: 10.1002/cphc.202100808. Epub 2022 Feb 15.


Broadband microwave spectra were recorded over the 2-18 GHz frequency range for a series of four model aromatic components of lignin; namely, guaiacol (ortho-methoxy phenol, G), syringol (2,6-dimethoxy phenol, S), 4-methyl guaiacol (MG), and 4-vinyl guaiacol (VG), under jet-cooled conditions in the gas phase. Using a combination of 13 C isotopic data and electronic structure calculations, distortions of the phenyl ring by the substituents on the ring are identified. In all four molecules, the rC(1)-C(6) bond between the two substituted C-atoms lengthens, leading to clear bond alternation that reflects an increase in the phenyl ring resonance structure with double bonds at rC(1)-C(2) , rC(3)-C(4) and rC(5)-C(6) . Syringol, with its symmetric methoxy substituents, possesses a microwave spectrum with tunneling doublets in the a-type transitions associated with H-atom tunneling. These splittings were fit to determine a barrier to hindered rotation of the OH group of 1975 cm-1 , a value nearly 50 % greater than that in phenol, due to the presence of the intramolecular OH⋅⋅⋅OCH3 H-bonds at the two equivalent planar geometries. In 4-methyl guaiacol, methyl rotor splittings are observed and used to confirm and refine an earlier measurement of the three-fold barrier V3 =67 cm-1 . Finally, 4-vinyl guaiacol shows transitions due to two conformers differing in the relative orientations of the vinyl and OH groups.

Keywords: bond length; high resolution; internal rotation; resonance structures; tunneling.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Lignin*
  • Microwaves
  • Phenols* / chemistry
  • Rotation


  • Phenols
  • Lignin