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Chemphyschem. 2002 Jan 18;3(1):57-78.

Femtochemistry of Norrish type-I reactions: III. Highly excited ketones--theoretical.

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Amos Noyes Laboratory of Chemical Physics, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA 91125, USA.


Time-dependant density functional theory (TDDFT) and ab initio methods (CASSCF and CASMP2) are applied here for the investigation of the excited-state potential energy surfaces of ketones studied experimentally in the accompanying paper, number IV in the series. The aim is to provide a general and detailed physical picture of the Norrish type-I reaction from S0 and S1 potentials (papers I and II) and from higher-energy potentials (papers III and IV). Particular focus here is on reactions following excitation to the 3s, 3p, and 3d Rydberg state and to the (nz-->pi*) and (pi-->pi*) valence states. It is shown that the active orbitals in the CASSCF calculations can be chosen so that accurate results are obtained with a small active space. Dynamic corrections of the state-specific CASSCF energies at the multireference MP2 level do not improve the results for the Rydberg states but are significant for the valence states. The geometries of the Rydberg states are similar to the ground state; the S1 and other valence states are not. A common property of the valence states is the elongated CO bond and the pyramidalization of the carbonyl carbon atom. As a consequence, these valence states cross all Rydberg states along the CO stretching coordinate and provide an efficient pathway down to the 3s Rydberg states (S2) through a series of conical intersections (CIs). The nonadiabatic coupling vector of the CI between the (pi-->pi*) and the 3s Rydberg states guides energy channeling into the asymmetric CC-stretching mode. The energy demand for the CC bond breakage (Norrish type-I) on the S2 surface is lower than that of the CI leading to the S1 state. This CC bond breakage leads to a linear excited state acetyl radical (3s Rydberg). Crossing a small barrier the 3s acyl radical can access a CI leading either to a second CC bond breakage or to a hot ground-state acetyl radical. The barriers for the Norrish type-I reaction on the various excited-state surfaces can be rationalized within the framework of valence-bond theory. The dynamic picture of the Norrish type-I reactions is now clear: The excitation to high-energy states leads to the nonconcerted breakage of the alpha-CC bonds by an "effective downhill" potential in space involving the active excitation center CO, CC stretching, and CCO bending nuclear motions, but not, as usually thought, a direct repulsive potential along the CC bond. In our accompanying paper (part IV), it is shown that the results from the experimental investigations of Norrish type-I reactions on the femtosecond timescale are consistent with these theoretical results.

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