An electron spin resonance investigation of ester cation radicals at low temperatures. Proton transfer and rearrangement reactions
The cation radicals of a series of esters have been produced by γ-irradiation of CFCl3 matrices containing the ester at 77 K. In previous work cations of methyl and ethyl esters were investigated. In this work we report results for larger esters. The cations of these esters are found to undergo immediate internal proton-transfer reactions involving specific sites on one of the alkyl substituents. For example, deuteration studies show that proton transfer occurs from the terminal methyl group in propyl formate to produce —OCH2CH2CH·2, whereas in propyl acetate —OCH2ĊHCH3 is produced. The proton lost from these groups is assumed to add to an oxygen on the ester functional group. In the case of propyl acetate and esters with branched side chains we find that fragmentation reactions follow the proton transfer. In the cases of t-butyl acetate and isobutyl formate the fragmentation process occurs at 77 K and results in the isobutylene cation. Neopentyl formate gives evidence for the cation radical, an RCH·2 radical and the fragmentation radical cation as the sample is annealed. These results show that ester cation radicals are highly reactive even at low temperatures where proton-transfer and fragmentation reactions are found.