Vibrational energy redistribution in catechol during ultraviolet photolysis

Graeme A. King, Thomas A.A. Oliver, Richard N. Dixon, Michael N. R. Ashfold

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

33 Citations (Scopus)


This article reports the striking interplay between the molecular structure and the photodissociation dynamics of catechol (a key dihydroxybenzene), identified using a combination of electronic spectroscopy, hydrogen (Rydberg) atom photofragment translational spectroscopy, density functional theory and second order approximate coupled cluster methods. We describe how the non-planar (C(1) symmetry) ← planar (C(s) symmetry) geometry change during S(1) (1(1)ππ*) ←S(0) excitation in catechol, as well as the presence of internal hydrogen bonding, can perturb the photodissociation dynamics relative to that of phenol (a monohydroxybenzene), particularly with respect to O-H bond fission via the lowest dissociative (1)πσ* state. For λ(phot) > 270 nm, O-H bond fission (of the non hydrogen bonded hydroxyl moiety) is deduced to proceed via H atom tunnelling from the photo-prepared 1(1)ππ* state into the lowest (1)πσ* state of the molecule. The vibrational energy distribution in the resulting catechoxyl product changes notably as λ(phot) is tuned on resonance with either the v' = 0, m(2)' = 1(+) or m(2)' = 2(+) torsional levels of the photo-prepared 1(1)ππ* state: the product state distribution is highly sensitive to the degree of OH torsional excitation (m(2)) prepared during photo-excitation. It is deduced that such torsional excitation can be redistributed very efficiently into ring puckering (and likely also in-plane ring stretch) vibrations as the molecule tunnels to its repulsive 1(1)πσ* state and dissociates. These observations can be rationalised by consideration of the photo-prepared nuclear wavefunctions. Analysis of the product vibrational energy distribution also reveals that the O-H bond strength of the non hydrogen bonded O-H moiety in catechol, D(0)(H-catechoxyl) ≤ 27 480 ± 50 cm(-1), ∼2500 cm(-1) lower than that of the sole O-H bond in bare phenol. As a consequence, the vertical excitation energy of the 1(1)πσ* state in catechol is reduced relative to that in phenol, yielding a particularly broad distribution of product vibrations for λ(phot) < 270 nm. This study highlights the interplay between molecular geometry and redistribution of vibrational energy during ultraviolet photolysis of phenols.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3338-3345
Number of pages8
JournalPhysical Chemistry Chemical Physics
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 14 Mar 2012


  • Catechols
  • Molecular Structure
  • Photochemical Processes
  • Photolysis
  • Quantum Theory
  • Ultraviolet Rays
  • Vibration


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