Oxidation mechanism of diethyl ether : a complex process for a simple molecule

Abstract : A large number of organic compounds, such as ethers, spontaneously form unstable peroxides through a self-propagating process of autoxidation (peroxidation). Although the hazards of organic peroxides are well known, the oxidation mechanisms of peroxidizable compounds like ethers reported in the literature are vague and often based on old experiments, carried out in very different conditions (e. g. atmospheric, combustion). With the aim to (partially) fill the lack of information, in this paper we present an extensive Density Functional Theory (DFT) study of autoxidation reaction of diethyl ether (DEE), a chemical that is largely used as solvent in laboratories, and which is considered to be responsible for various accidents. The aim of the work is to investigate the most probable reaction paths involved in the autoxidation process and to identify all potential hazardous intermediates, such as peroxides. Beyond the determination of a complex oxidation mechanism for such a simple molecule, our results suggest that the two main reaction channels open in solution are the direct decomposition (beta-scission) of DEE radical issued of the initiation step and the isomerization of the peroxy radical formed upon oxygen attack (DEEOO(center dot)). A simple kinetic evaluation of these two competing reaction channels hints that radical isomerization may play an unexpectedly important role in the global DEE oxidation process. Finally industrial hazards could be related to the hydroperoxide formation and accumulation during the chain propagation step. The resulting information may contribute to the understanding of the accidental risks associated with the use of diethyl ether.
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Stefania Di Tommaso, Patricia Rotureau, Orlando Crescenzi, Carlo Adamo. Oxidation mechanism of diethyl ether : a complex process for a simple molecule. Physical Chemistry Chemical Physics, Royal Society of Chemistry, 2011, 13 (32), pp.14636-14645. ⟨10.1039/c1cp21357a⟩. ⟨ineris-00963321⟩

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