Reactivity Trends in the Gas-Phase Addition of Acetylene to the N-Protonated Aryl Radical Cations of Pyridine, Aniline, and Benzonitrile

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Journal of the American Society for Mass Spectrometry


A key step in gas-phase polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH) formation involves the addition of acetylene (or other alkyne) to σ-type aromatic radicals, with successive additions yielding more complex PAHs. A similar process can happen for N-containing aromatics. In cold diffuse environments, such as the interstellar medium, rates of radical addition may be enhanced when the σ-type radical is charged. This paper investigates the gas-phase ion-molecule reactions of acetylene with nine aromatic distonic σ-type radical cations derived from pyridinium (Pyr), anilinium (Anl), and benzonitrilium (Bzn) ions. Three isomers are studied in each case (radical sites at the ortho, meta, and para positions). Using a room temperature ion trap, second-order rate coefficients, product branching ratios, and reaction efficiencies are measured. The rate coefficients increase from para to ortho positions. The second-order rate coefficients can be sorted into three groups: low, between 1 and 3 × 10-12 cm3 molecule-1 s-1 (3Anl and 4Anl); intermediate, between 5 and 15 × 10-12 cm3 molecule-1 s-1 (2Bzn, 3Bzn, and 4Bzn); and high, between 8 and 31 × 10-11 cm3 molecule-1 s-1 (2Anl, 2Pyr, 3Pyr, and 4Pyr); and 2Anl is the only radical cation with a rate coefficient distinctly different from its isomers. Quantum chemical calculations, using M06-2X-D3(0)/6-31++G(2df,p) geometries and DSD-PBEP86-NL/aug-cc-pVQZ energies, are deployed to rationalize reactivity trends based on the stability of prereactive complexes. The G3X-K method guides the assignment of product ions following adduct formation. The rate coefficient trend can be rationalized by a simple model based on the prereactive complex forward barrier height.

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Australian Government



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