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J Am Chem Soc. 2018 Nov 28;140(47):16178-16183. doi: 10.1021/jacs.8b08900. Epub 2018 Nov 13.

Direct Observation of C2O4•- and CO2•- by Oxidation of Oxalate within Nanogap of Scanning Electrochemical Microscope.

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Center for Electrochemistry, Department of Chemistry , The University of Texas at Austin , Austin , Texas 78712 , United States.


Oxalate oxidation in the presence of different oxidized luminophores leads to the emission of light and has been studied extensively in electrogenerated chemiluminescence (ECL). The proposed mechanism involves the initial formation of the oxalate radical anion, C2O4•-. The ensuing decomposition of C2O4•- produces a very strong reductant, CO2•-, which reacts with the oxidized luminophores to generate excited states that emit light. Although the mechanism has been proposed for decades, the experimental demonstration is still lacking, because of the complexity of the system and the short lifetimes of both radical anions. To address these issues, we studied oxalate oxidation at platinum ultramicroelectrodes (UMEs) in anhydrous N, N-dimethylformamide (DMF) solution by nanoscale scanning electrochemical microscopy (SECM) with the tip generation/substrate collection (TG/SC) mode. A Pt nanoelectrode was utilized as the SECM generator for oxalate oxidation, while another Pt UME served as the SECM collector and was used to capture the generated intermediates. We studied the influence of the gap distance, d, on the substrate current ( is). The results indicate that, when 73 nm < d < 500 nm, the species captured by the substrate were primarily CO2•-, while C2O4•- was the predominant intermediate measured when d was below 73 nm. A half-life of 1.3 μs for C2O4•- was obtained, which indicates a stepwise mechanism for oxalate oxidation. The relevance of these observations to the use of oxalate as the coreactant in ECL systems is also discussed.


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