Direct observation of para-Xylylene as the decomposition product of the meta-Xylyl radical using VUV synchrotron radiation
Xylyl (methylbenzyl) radicals are important combustion intermediates, formed in the pyrolysis and oxidation of xylenes and other substituted aromatic fuel additives. We have used VUV synchrotron radiation and imaging photoelectron photoion coincidence (iPEPICO) spectroscopy techniques to identify para-xylylene as the dominant stable C8H8 product arising from thermal decomposition of the meta-xylyl radical. A complex rearrangement from a meta- to a para-substituted aromatic, supported by quantum chemical calculations, can rationalize the observed reaction products. This work provides the first experimental evidence for the pyrolysis products of the meta-xylyl radical and can explain why the decomposition of this radical is considerably slower than that of the ortho and para isomers. This study emphasizes the utility of VUV synchrotron radiation and iPEPICO spectroscopy to tackle the reaction mechanism of combustion-relevant processes.