A Reinvestigation of the Deceptively Simple Reaction of Toluene with ●OH, and the Fate of the Benzyl Radical. I. a Combined Thermodynamic and Kinetic Study on the Competition Between ●OH Addition and Hydrogen Abstraction Reactions.

This work reports density functional and composite model chemistry calculations performed on the reactions of toluene with the hydroxyl radical. Both experimentally observed H-abstraction from the methyl group and possible additions to the phenyl ring were investigated. Reaction enthalpies and heights of the barriers suggest that H-abstraction is more favorable than ●OH addition to the ring. The calculated reaction rates at room temperature and the radical-intermediate product fractions support this view. This is somehow contradictory with the fact that, under most experimental conditions, cresols are observed in a larger concentration than benzaldehyde. Since the accepted mechanism for benzaldehyde formation involves H-abstraction, a contradiction arises that begs for an explanation. In this first part of our work we give the evidences that support the preference of hydrogen abstraction over ●OH addition and suggest an alternative mechanism which shows that cresols can actually arise also from the former reaction and not only from the latter.