A theoretical study on the reactivity and spectra of H2CO and HCOH. A dimeric model for nonzero pressure formaldehyde photochemistry

M.J.H. Kemper, C.H. Hoeks, H.M. Buck

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Abstract

The reactivity and spectra of formaldehyde isomers and dimeric complexes between them are studied with ab initio methods. A large number of complexes between H2CO, trans-HCOH, cis-HCOH is calculated. Infrared and Raman spectra of (H2CO)2 are calculated with relatively simple methods using spectroscopic masses and scaled force constants. In this way, the structure of dimers in matrices can be deduced. Hydroxycarbene (HCOH) plays a key role in a model that explains a large number of experimental facts of the nonzero pressure photochemistry. Hydroxycarbene forms complexes with H2CO; the stabilization is due to classical hydrogen bonds. HCOH is a new example of an ambiphilic carbene. Addition products are formed from HCOH···H2CO complexes. The calculations show that, in agreement with matrix experiments, glycoaldehyde and methanol are easily formed. The formation of trans-HCOH occurs through a dimeric interaction with the shifting hydrogen. This bimolecular process is 9.6 kcal/mol (6–31G*) in favor of the unimolecular conversion. cis-HCOH might be formed via a nonplanar transition state, where also stabilization at the carbenic center is possible. When higher concentrations of HCOH are available, a hydrogen exchange mechanism easily transfers hydroxycarbene back to H2CO. Several experiments are suggested in this paper; notably, molecular beam and isotopic-mixture experiments will give useful information. The involvement of HCOH in the light-induced formose reaction is suggested.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5744-5757
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Chemical Physics
Volume74
Issue number10
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1981

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