Publication Details

McAnoy, A., Paine, M. & Blanksby, S. J. (2008). Reactions of the hydroperoxide anion with dimethyl methylphosphonate in an ion trap mass spectrometer: evidence for a gas phase α-effect. Organic and Biomolecular Chemistry, 6 (13), 2316-2326.


The gas phase degradation reactions of the chemical warfare agent (CWA) simulant, dimethyl methylphosphonate (DMMP), with the hydroperoxide anion (HOO) were investigated using a modified quadrupole ion trap mass spectrometer. The HOO anion reacts readily with neutral DMMP forming two significant product ions at m/z 109 and m/z 123. The major reaction pathways correspond to (i) the nucleophilic substitution at carbon to form [CH3P(O)(OCH3)O] (m/z 109) in a highly exothermic process and (ii) exothermic proton transfer. The branching ratios of the two reaction pathways, 89% and 11% respectively, indicate that the former reaction is significantly faster than the latter. This is in contrast to the trend for the methoxide anion with DMMP, where proton transfer dominates. The difference in the observed reactivities of the HOO and CH3O anions can be considered as evidence for an α-effect in the gas phase and is supported by electronic structure calculations at the B3LYP/aug-cc-pVTZ//B3LYP/6-31+G(d) level of theory that indicate the SN2(carbon) process has an activation energy 7.8 kJ mol-1 lower for HOO as compared to CH3O. A similar α-effect was calculated for nucleophilic additionelimination at phosphorus, but this process – an important step in the perhydrolysis degradation of CWAs in solution – was not observed to occur with DMMP in the gas phase. A theoretical investigation revealed that all processes are energetically accessible with negative activation energies. However, comparison of the relative Arrhenius pre-exponential factors indicate that substitution at phosphorus is not kinetically competitive with respect to the SN2(carbon) and deprotonation processes.

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