Radical (chemistry)


Radical (chemistry)
Moses Gomberg (1866-1947), the founder of radical chemistry

Radicals (often referred to as free radicals) are atoms, molecules, or ions with unpaired electrons on an open shell configuration. Free radicals may have positive, negative, or zero charge. With some exceptions, the unpaired electrons cause radicals to be highly chemically reactive.

Radicals, if allowed to run free in the body, are believed to be involved in degenerative diseases, senescence (the aging process), and cancers.

Free radicals play an important role in combustion, atmospheric chemistry, polymerization, plasma chemistry, biochemistry, and many other chemical processes. In chemical biology, superoxide and nitric oxide regulate many processes, such as controlling vascular tone. Such radicals can even be messengers in a phenomenon dubbed redox signaling. A radical may be trapped within a solvent cage or be otherwise bound.

Contents

History

The first organic free radical identified was triphenylmethyl radical, by Moses Gomberg in 1900 at the University of Michigan.

Historically, the term radical has also been used for bound parts of the molecule, especially when they remain unchanged in reactions. These are now called functional groups. For example, methyl alcohol was described as consisting of a methyl "radical" and a hydroxyl "radical". Neither are radicals in the modern chemical sense, as they are permanently bound to each other, and have no unpaired, reactive electrons. They can, however, be observed as radicals in mass spectrometry when broken apart by irradiation with energetic electrons.

Depiction in chemical reactions

In chemical equations, free radicals are frequently denoted by a dot placed immediately to the right of the atomic symbol or molecular formula as follows:

\mathrm{Cl}_2 \; \xrightarrow{UV} \; {\mathrm{Cl} \cdot} + {\mathrm{Cl} \cdot}
Chlorine gas can be broken down by ultraviolet light to form atomic chlorine radicals.

Radical reaction mechanisms use single-headed arrows to depict the movement of single electrons:

Radical.svg

The homolytic cleavage of the breaking bond is drawn with a 'fish-hook' arrow to distinguish from the usual movement of two electrons depicted by a standard curly arrow. It should be noted that the second electron of the breaking bond also moves to pair up with the attacking radical electron; this is not explicitly indicated in this case.

Free radicals take part in radical addition and radical substitution as reactive intermediates. Chain reactions involving free radicals can usually be divided into three distinct processes: initiation, propagation, and termination.

  • Initiation reactions are those that result in a net increase in the number of free radicals. They may involve the formation of free radicals from stable species as in Reaction 1 above or they may involve reactions of free radicals with stable species to form more free radicals.
  • Propagation reactions are those reactions involving free radicals in which the total number of free radicals remains the same.
  • Termination reactions are those reactions resulting in a net decrease in the number of free radicals. Typically two free radicals combine to form a more stable species, for example: 2Cl·→ Cl2

Formation

The formation of radicals may involve breaking of covalent bonds homolytically, a process that requires significant amounts of energy. For example, splitting H2 into 2H· has a ΔH° of +435 kJ/mol, and Cl2 into 2Cl· has a ΔH° of +243 kJ/mol. This is known as the homolytic bond dissociation energy, and is usually abbreviated as the symbol DH°. The bond energy between two covalently bonded atoms is affected by the structure of the molecule as a whole, not just the identity of the two atoms, and radicals requiring more energy to form are less stable than those requiring less energy. Homolytic bond cleavage most often happens between two atoms of similar electronegativity. In organic chemistry this is often the O-O bond in peroxide species or O-N bonds. Sometimes radical formation is spin-forbidden, presenting an additional barrier.

However, propagation is a very exothermic reaction. Note that most species are electrically neutral although radical ions do exist.

Radicals may also be formed by single electron oxidation or reduction of an atom or molecule. An example is the production of superoxide by the electron transport chain. Early studies of organometallic chemistry, especially tetra-alkyl lead species by F.A. Paneth and K. Hahnfeld in the 1930s supported heterolytic fission of bonds and a radical based mechanism.

Persistence and stability

The radical derived from α-tocopherol

Although radicals are generally short-lived due to their reactivity, long-lived radicals exist, and may be categorized as follows:

Stable radicals

The prime example of a stable radical is molecular dioxygen (O2). Another common example is nitric oxide (NO). Organic radicals can be long lived if they occur in a conjugated π system, such as the radical derived from α-tocopherol (vitamin E). There are also hundreds of examples of thiazyl radicals, which show remarkable kinetic and thermodynamic stability with only a very limited extent of π resonance stabilization.[1][2]

Persistent radicals

Persistent radical compounds are those whose longevity is due to steric crowding around the radical center, which makes it physically difficult for the radical to react with another molecule.[3] Examples of these include Gomberg's triphenylmethyl radical, Fremy's salt (Potassium nitrosodisulfonate, (KSO3)2NO·), nitroxides, (general formula R2NO·) such as TEMPO, TEMPOL, verdazys, nitronyl nitroxides, and azephenylenyls and radicals derived from PTM (perchlorophenylmethyl radical) and TTM (tris(2,4,6-trichlorophenylmethyl radical). The longest-lived free radical is melanin, which may persist for millions of years.[citation needed] Persistent radicals are generated in great quantity during combustion, and "may be responsible for the oxidative stress resulting in cardiopulmonary disease and probably cancer that has been attributed to exposure to airborne fine particles."[4]

Diradicals

Diradicals are molecules containing two radical centers. Multiple radical centers can exist in a molecule. Atmospheric oxygen naturally exists as a diradical in its ground state as triplet oxygen. The high reactivity of atmospheric oxygen is due to its diradical state. Non-radical states of dioxygen are actually less stable. The relative stability of the oxygen diradical is primarily due to the spin-forbidden nature of the triplet-singlet transition required for it to grab electrons. The diradical state of oxygen also results in its paramagnetic character, which is demonstrated by its attraction to an external magnet.[5]

Reactivity

Radical alkyl intermediates are stabilized by similar criteria as carbocations: the more substituted the radical center is, the more stable it is. This will direct their reactions: formation of a tertiary radical (R3C·) is favored over secondary (R2HC·), which is favored over primary (RH2C·). Radicals next to functional groups such as carbonyl, nitrile, and ether are more stable than tertiary alkyl radicals.

Radicals attack double bonds, but unlike similar ions, they are not as much directed by electrostatic interactions. For example, the reactivity of nucleophilic ions with α,β-unsaturated compounds (C=C–C=O) is directed by the electron-withdrawing effect of the oxygen, resulting in a partial positive charge on the carbonyl carbon. There are two reactions that are observed in the ionic case: the carbonyl is attacked in a direct addition to carbonyl, or the vinyl is attacked in conjugate addition, and in either case, the charge on the nucleophile is taken by the oxygen. Radicals add rapidly to the double bond, and the resulting α-radical carbonyl is relatively stable; it can couple with another molecule or be oxidized. Nonetheless, the electrophilic/neutrophilic character of radicals has been shown in a variety of instances (e.g., in the alternating tendency of the copolymerization of maleic anhydride (electrophilic) and styrene (slightly nucleophilic).

In intramolecular reactions, precise control can be achieved despite the extreme reactivity of radicals. Radicals will attack the closest reactive site the most readily. Therefore, when there is a choice, a preference for five-membered rings is observed: four-membered rings are too strained, and collisions with carbons six or more atoms away in the chain are infrequent.

Carbenes and nitrenes, which are diradicals, have distinctive chemistry.

Combustion

Spectrum of the blue flame from a butane torch showing excited molecular radical band emission and Swan bands

Probably the most familiar free-radical reaction for most people is combustion. The oxygen molecule is a stable diradical, best represented by ·O-O·, which is stable because the spins of the electrons are parallel. The ground state of oxygen is an unreactive spin-unpaired (triplet) diradical, but an extremely reactive spin-paired (singlet) state is available. For combustion to occur, the energy barrier between these must be overcome. This barrier can be overcome by heat, requiring high temperatures. The triplet-singlet transition is also "forbidden". This presents an additional barrier to the reaction. It also means molecular oxygen is relatively unreactive at room temperature except in the presence of a catalytic heavy atom such as iron or copper.

Combustion consists of various radical chain reactions that the singlet radical can initiate. The flammability of a given material is strongly dependent on the concentration of free radicals that must be obtained before initiation and propagation reactions dominate leading to combustion of the material. Once the combustible material has been consumed, termination reactions again dominate and the flame dies out. Propagation or termination reactions can be promoted to alter flammability. Tetraethyl lead was once commonly added to gasoline, because lead itself deactivates free radicals in the gasoline-air mixture. This prevents the combustion from initiating in an uncontrolled manner or in unburnt residues (engine knocking) or premature ignition (preignition).

When a hydrocarbon is burned, a large number of different oxygen radicals are involved. The first thing to form is a hydroperoxide radical (HOO·), which reacts further into hydroperoxides that break up into hydroxide radicals.

Polymerization

In addition to combustion, many polymerization reactions involve free radicals. As a result many plastics, enamels, and other polymers are formed through radical polymerization.

Recent advances in radical polymerization methods, known as living radical polymerization, include:

  • Reversible addition-fragmentation chain transfer (RAFT)
  • Atom transfer radical polymerization (ATRP)
  • Nitroxide mediated polymerization (NMP)

These methods produce polymers with a much narrower distribution of molecular weights.

Atmospheric radicals

The most common radical in the lower atmosphere is molecular dioxygen. Other free radicals are produced through photodissociation of source molecules. In the lower atmosphere, the most important examples of free radical production are the photodissociation of nitrogen dioxide to give an oxygen atom and nitric oxide, which plays a key role in smog formation—and the photodissociation of ozone to give the excited oxygen atom O(1D). In the upper atmosphere, a particularly important source of radicals is the photodissociation of normally unreactive chlorofluorocarbons by solar ultraviolet radiation, or by reactions with other stratospheric constituents. These free radicals, among them the hydroxyl radical OH· predominates, then react with ozone in a catalytic chain reaction, in which destroys the ozone but regenerates the free radical, allowing it to participate in additional reactions. Such reactions are believed to be the primary cause of depletion of the ozone layer and this is why the use of chlorofluorocarbons as refrigerants has been restricted.

In biology

Free radicals play an important role in a number of biological processes, some of them necessary for life, such as the intracellular killing of bacteria by phagocytic cells such as granulocytes and macrophages. Researchers have also implicated free radicals in certain cell signalling processes.[6] This is dubbed redox signaling.

The two most important oxygen-centered free radicals are superoxide and hydroxyl radical. They derive from molecular oxygen under reducing conditions. However, because of their reactivity, these same free radicals can participate in unwanted side reactions resulting in cell damage. Excessive amounts of these free radicals can lead to cell injury and death, which results in many diseases such as cancer, stroke, myocardial infarction, diabetes and major disorders.[7] Many forms of cancer are thought[by whom?] to be the result of reactions between free radicals and DNA, resulting in mutations that can adversely affect the cell cycle and potentially lead to malignancy. Some of the symptoms of aging such as atherosclerosis are also attributed to free-radical induced oxidation of many of the chemicals making up the body.[citation needed] In addition free radicals contribute to alcohol-induced liver damage, perhaps more than alcohol itself. Radicals in cigarette smoke have been implicated in inactivation of alpha 1-antitrypsin in the lung. This process promotes the development of emphysema.

Free radicals may[original research?] also be involved in Parkinson's disease, senile and drug-induced deafness, schizophrenia, and Alzheimer's. The classic free-radical syndrome, the iron-storage disease hemochromatosis, is typically associated with a constellation of free-radical-related symptoms including movement disorder, psychosis, skin pigmentary melanin abnormalities, deafness, arthritis, and diabetes mellitus. The free radical theory of aging proposes that free radicals underlie the aging process itself, whereas the process of mitohormesis suggests that repeated exposure to free radicals may extend life span.

Because free radicals are necessary for life, the body has a number of mechanisms to minimize free-radical-induced damage and to repair damage that occurs, such as the enzymes superoxide dismutase, catalase, glutathione peroxidase and glutathione reductase. In addition, antioxidants play a key role in these defense mechanisms. These are often the three vitamins, vitamin A, vitamin C and vitamin E and polyphenol antioxidants. Further, there is good evidence bilirubin and uric acid can act as antioxidants to help neutralize certain free radicals. Bilirubin comes from the breakdown of red blood cells' contents, while uric acid is a breakdown product of purines. Too much bilirubin, though, can lead to jaundice, which could eventually damage the central nervous system, while too much uric acid causes gout.[8]

Reactive oxygen species

Reactive oxygen species or ROSs are species such as superoxide, hydrogen peroxide, and hydroxyl radical and are associated with cell damage. ROSs form as a natural by-product of the normal metabolism of oxygen and have important roles in cell signaling.

Loose definition of radicals

In most fields of chemistry, the historical definition of radicals contends that the molecules have nonzero spin. However in fields including spectroscopy, chemical reaction, and astrochemistry, the definition is slightly different. Gerhard Herzberg, who won the Nobel prize for his research into the electron structure and geometry of radicals, suggested a looser definition of free radicals: "any transient (chemically unstable) species (atom, molecule, or ion)"[9]. The main point of his suggestion is that there are many chemically unstable molecules that have zero spin, such as C2, C3, CH2 and so on. This definition is more convenient for discussions of transient chemical processes and astrochemistry; therefore researchers in these fields prefer to use this loose definition.[10]

Diagnostics

Free radical diagnostic techniques include:

  • Electron spin resonance
A widely used technique for studying free radicals, and other paramagnetic species, is electron spin resonance spectroscopy (ESR). This is alternately referred to as "electron paramagnetic resonance" (EPR) spectroscopy. It is conceptually related to nuclear magnetic resonance, though electrons resonate with higher-frequency fields at a given fixed magnetic field than do most nuclei.
Chemical labelling by quenching with free radicals, e.g. with nitric oxide (NO) or DPPH (2,2-diphenyl-1-picrylhydrazyl), followed by spectroscopic methods like X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS) or absorption spectroscopy, respectively.
  • Use of free radical markers
Stable, specific or non-specific derivates of physiological substances can be measured e.g. lipid peroxidation products (isoprostanes, TBARS), amino acid oxidation products (meta-tyrosine, ortho-tyrosine, hydroxy-Leu, dityrosine etc.), peptide oxidation products (oxidized glutathione - GSSG)
  • Indirect method
Measurement of the decrease in the amount of antioxidants (e.g. TAS, reduced glutathione - GSH)
Using a chemical species that reacts with free radicals to form a stable product that can then be readily measured (Hydroxyl radical and salicylic acid)

See also

References

  1. ^ Oakley, Richard T. (1988). "Cyclic and Heterocyclic Thiazenes" (PDF). Progress in Inorganic Chemistry. Progress in Inorganic Chemistry. 36. pp. 299–391. doi:10.1002/9780470166376.ch4. ISBN 9780470166376. http://www.chembio.uoguelph.ca/oakley/papers/rto_086.pdf. 
  2. ^ Rawson, J; Banister, A; Lavender, I (1995). "The Chemistry of Dithiadiazolylium and Dithiadiazolyl Rings". Advances in Heterocyclic Chemistry Volume 62. Advances in Heterocyclic Chemistry. 62. pp. 137–247. doi:10.1016/S0065-2725(08)60422-5. ISBN 9780120207626. 
  3. ^ Griller, David; Ingold, Keith U. (1976). "Persistent carbon-centered radicals". Accounts of Chemical Research 9: 13. doi:10.1021/ar50097a003. 
  4. ^ Lomnicki S.; Truong H.; Vejerano E.; Dellinger B. (2008). "Copper oxide-based model of persistent free radical formation on combustion-derived particulate matter". Environ. Sci. Technol. 42 (13): 4982–4988. doi:10.1021/es071708h. PMID 18678037. 
  5. ^ However, paramagnetism does not necessarily imply radical character.
  6. ^ Pacher P, Beckman JS, Liaudet L (2007). "Nitric oxide and peroxynitrite in health and disease". Physiol. Rev. 87 (1): 315–424. doi:10.1152/physrev.00029.2006. PMC 2248324. PMID 17237348. http://www.pubmedcentral.nih.gov/articlerender.fcgi?tool=pmcentrez&artid=2248324. 
  7. ^ Rajamani Karthikeyan, Manivasagam T, Anantharaman P, Balasubramanian T, Somasundaram ST (2011). "Chemopreventive effect of Padina boergesenii extracts on ferric nitrilotriacetate (Fe-NTA)-induced oxidative damage in Wistar rats". J. Appl. Phycol. 23, Issue 2, Page 257 (2): 257–263. doi:10.1007/s10811-010-9564-0. 
  8. ^ An overview of the role of free radicals in biology and of the use of electron spin resonance in their detection may be found in Rhodes C.J. (2000). Toxicology of the Human Environment - the critical role of free radicals. London: Taylor and Francis. ISBN 0748409165. 
  9. ^ G. Herzberg (1971), "The spectra and structures of simple free radicals", ISBN 0-486-65821-X.
  10. ^ 28th International Symposium on Free Radicals.

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