Position matters: competing O-H and N-H photodissociation pathways in hydroxy- and methoxy-substituted indoles

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H (Rydberg) atom photofragment translational spectroscopy (HRA-PTS) and complete active space with second order perturbation theory (CASPT2) methods have been used to explore the competing N-H and O-H bond dissociation pathways of 4- and 5-hydroxyindoles (HI) and methoxyindoles (MI). When 4-HI was excited to bound (1)L(b) levels, (λ(phot) ≤ 284.893 nm) O-H bond fission was demonstrated by assignment of the structure within the resulting total kinetic energy release (TKER) spectra. By analogy with phenol, dissociation was deduced to occur by H atom tunnelling under the barrier associated with the lower diabats of the (1)L(b)/(1)πσ*((OH)) conical intersection (CI). No evidence was found for a significant N-H bond dissociation yield at these or shorter excitation wavelengths (284.893 ≥ λ(phot) ≥ 193.3 nm). Companion studies of 4-MI revealed different reaction dynamics. In this case, N-H bond fission is deduced to occur at λ(phot) ≤ 271.104 nm, by direct excitation to the (1)πσ*((NH)) state. Analysis of the measured TKER spectra implies a mechanism wherein, as in pyrrole, the (1)πσ*((NH)) state gains oscillator strength by intensity borrowing from nearby bound states with higher oscillator strengths. HRA-PTS studies of 5-HI, in contrast, showed no evidence for O-H bond dissociation when excited on (1)L(b) levels. The present CASPT2 calculations assist in rationalizing this observation: the area underneath the (1)L(b)/(1)πσ* CI diabats in 5-HI is ~60% greater than the corresponding area in 4-HI and O-H bond dissociation by tunnelling is thus much less probable. Only by reducing the wavelength to ≤ 255 nm were signs of N-H and/or O-H bond dissociation identified. By comparison with companion 5-MI studies, we deduce little O-H bond fission in 5-HI at λ(phot) > 235 nm and that N-H bond fission is the dominant source of H atoms in the wavelength region 255 > λ(phot) > 235 nm. The very different dissociation dynamics of 4- and 5-HI are traced to the position of the -OH substituent, and its effect on the overall electronic structure.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)14646-14662
Number of pages17
JournalPhysical Chemistry Chemical Physics
Issue number32
Publication statusPublished - 28 Aug 2011


  • Indoles
  • Photochemical Processes
  • Quantum Theory


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