Inhibition of hydrocarbon autoxidation by nitroxide-catalyzed cross-dismutation of hydroperoxyl and alkylperoxyl radicals†
Nitroxides are putative intermediates in the accepted reaction mechanisms of the diarylamine and hindered amine antioxidants that are universally added to preserve synthetic and natural hydrocarbon-based materials. New methodology which enables monitoring of hydrocarbon autoxidations at low rates of radical generation has revealed that diarylnitroxides and hindered nitroxides are far better inhibitors of unsaturated hydrocarbon autoxidation than their precursor amines, implying intervention of a different mechanism. Experimental and computational investigations suggest that the nitroxides catalyze the cross-dismutation of hydroperoxyl and alkylperoxyl radicals to yield O2 and a hydroperoxide, thereby halting the autoxidation chain reaction. The hydroperoxyl radicals – key players in hydrocarbon combustion, but essentially unknown in autoxidation – are proposed to derive from a tunneling-enhanced intramolecular (1,4-) hydrogen-atom transfer/elimination sequence from oxygenated radical addition intermediates. These insights suggest that nitroxides are preferred additives for the protection of hydrocarbon-based materials from autoxidation since they exhibit catalytic activity under conditions where their precursor amines are less effective and/or inefficiently converted to nitroxides in situ.