Attempted characterisation of phenanthrene-4,5-quinone and electrochemical synthesis of violanthrone-16,17-quinone. How does the stability of bay quinones correlate with structural and electronic parameters?†
In bay quinones, two carbonyl moieties are forced into close proximity by their spatial arrangement, resulting in an interesting axially chiral and nonplanar structure. Two representatives of this little-explored class of compounds were investigated experimentally in this work. Electrochemical oxidation of 4,5-dihydroxyphenanthrene failed to provide evidence for the reversible formation of phenanthrene-4,5-quinone. Even at temperatures as low as T = 229 K, cyclic voltammograms did not show any evidence for reversibility, indicating that phenanthrene-4,5-quinone likely is a reactive intermediate even at low temperatures. Electrochemical oxidation of the larger homologue 16,17-dihydroxyviolanthrone, on the other hand, was reversible, and the quinone could be characterised by spectroelectrochemical means. The results of quantum chemical calculations confirm the experimental findings and indicate that a bay dicarbonyl moiety, also found in a number of angucycline antibiotics, does not necessarily have to confer extreme reactivity. However, in a series of phenanthrene quinones with an equal number (zero) of Clar sextets and a varying number of bay carbonyl groups (zero to two), there was a clear correlation between the triplet energy, taken as a measure of biradical character, and the number of bay carbonyl moieties, with the lowest triplet energy predicted for phenanthrene-4,5-quinone (two bay carbonyl moieties).