Reaction of phenol with singlet oxygen

Jomana Al-Nu'Airat, Bogdan Z. Dlugogorski, Xiangpeng Gao, Nassim Zeinali, Jakub Skut, Phillip R. Westmoreland, Ibukun Oluwoye, Mohammednoor Altarawneh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Photo-degradation of organic pollutants plays an important role in their removal from the environment. This study provides an experimental and theoretical account of the reaction of singlet oxygen O 2 ( 1 Δ g ) with the biodegradable-resistant species of phenol in an aqueous medium. The experiments combine customised LED-photoreactors, high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC), and electron paramagnetic resonance (EPR) imaging, employing rose bengal as a sensitiser. Guided by density functional theory (DFT) calculations at the M062X level, we report the mechanism of the reaction and its kinetic model. Addition of O 2 ( 1 Δ g ) to the phenol molecule branches into two competitive 1,4-cycloaddition and ortho ene-type routes, yielding 2,3-dioxabicyclo[2.2.2]octa-5,7-dien-1-ol (i.e., 1,4-endoperoxide 1-hydroxy-2,5-cyclohexadiene) and 2-hydroperoxycyclohexa-3,5-dien-1-one, respectively. Unimolecular rearrangements of the 1,4-endoperoxide proceed in a facile exothermic reaction to form the only experimentally detected product, para-benzoquinone. EPR revealed the nature of the oxidation intermediates and corroborated the appearance of O 2 ( 1 Δ g ) as the only active radical participating in the photosensitised reaction. Additional experiments excluded the formation of hydroxyl (HO), hydroperoxyl (HO 2 ), and phenoxy intermediates. We detected for the first time the para-semibenzoquinone anion (PSBQ), supporting the reaction pathway leading to the formation of para-benzoquinone. Our experiments and the water-solvation model result in the overall reaction rates of k r-solvation = 1.21 × 10 4 M -1 s -1 and k r = 1.14 × 10 4 M -1 s -1 , respectively. These results have practical application to quantify the degradation of phenol in wastewater treatment.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)171-183
Number of pages13
JournalPhysical Chemistry Chemical Physics
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2019
Externally publishedYes


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