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“H/Vinyl” and “Alkyl/Vinyl” Conical Intersections Leading to Carbene Formation from the Excited States of Cyclohexene and Norbornene

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journal contribution
posted on 23.08.2002, 00:00 by Sarah Wilsey, K. N. Houk
The photochemical [1,2]-shifts leading to carbene intermediates from cyclohexene and norbornene have been studied using CASSCF calculations and a 6-31G* basis set. In each case, a S1/S0 conical intersection hyperline was identified that extends from the region of the reactant excited state to the carbene product. It is traditionally thought that the Rydberg R(π,3s) state is responsible for carbene formation on photolysis of cyclic alkenes, but these new results indicate an efficient mechanism for carbene formation following excitation to the 1(ππ*) state. This pathway is essentially barrierless and involves internal conversion to the ground-state surface via conical intersections between the excited zwitterionic valence state and the ground-state surface, similar to those responsible for cis−trans isomerization in ethene and other acyclic alkenes. These results are in excellent agreement with recent experimental data obtained using femtosecond spectroscopy.