A Conical Intersection Influences the Ground State Rearrangement of Fulvene to Benzene

Barry Carpenter, G. Ellison, Mark Nimlos, Adam Scheer

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9 Scopus Citations


The rearrangement of fulvene to benzene is believed to play an important role in the formation of soot during hydrocarbon combustion. Previous work has identified two possible mechanisms for the rearrangement─a unimolecular path and a hydrogen-atom-assisted, bimolecular path. Computational results to date have suggested that the unimolecular mechanism faces a barrier of about 74 kcal/mol, which makes it unable to compete with the bimolecular mechanism under typical combustion conditions. This computed barrier is about 10 kcal/mol higher than the experimental value, which is an unusually large discrepancy for modern electronic structure theory. In the present work, we have reinvestigated the unimolecular mechanism computationally, and we have found a second transition state that is approximately 10 kcal/mol lower in energy than the previously identified one and, therefore, in excellent agreement with the experimental value. The existence of two transition states for the same rearrangement arises because there is a conical intersection between the two lowest singlet states which occurs in the vicinity of the reaction coordinates. The two possible paths around the cone on the lower adiabatic surface give rise to the two distinct saddle points. The lower barrier for the unimolecular mechanism now makes it competitive with the bimolecular one, according to our calculations. In support of this conclusion, we have reanalyzed some previous experimental results on anisole pyrolysis, which leads to benzene as a significant product and have shown that the unimolecular and bimolecular mechanisms for fulvene → benzene must be occurring competitively in that system. Finally, we have identified that similar conical intersections arise during the isomerizations of benzofulvene and isobenzofulvene to naphthalene.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)1429-1447
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Physical Chemistry A
Issue number8
StatePublished - 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 American Chemical Society. All rights reserved.

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/JA-2800-82361


  • anisole pyrolysis
  • benzene
  • conical intersection
  • hydrocarbon combustion
  • unimolecular mechanism


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