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International Journal of Photoenergy
Volume 2014 (2014), Article ID 864361, 6 pages
Research Article

Photochemical Behaviour of Carbamates Structurally Related to Herbicides in Aqueous Media: Nucleophilic Solvent Trapping versus Radical Reactions

UdR Napoli 4 INCA, Dipartimento di Scienze Chimiche, Università di Napoli Federico II, Complesso Universitario Monte S. Angelo, Via Cintia 21, 80126 Napoli, Italy

Received 3 October 2013; Accepted 15 December 2013; Published 8 January 2014

Academic Editor: Zofia Stasicka

Copyright © 2014 Monica Passananti et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Irradiation of N-aryl O-aryl carbamates has been carried out in H2O/CH3CN (1 : 1 v/v) solutions at  nm. When chlorine is on the N-aryl ring, halogen-substituted products are found. These photoproducts derive from the trapping of the intermediate radical cation by water and, even, by acetonitrile leading to phenols and N-arylacetamides (photo-Ritter products), respectively. Unsubstituted N-aryl carbamates slowly undergo photo-Fries reaction.

1. Introduction

Interaction of light with matter is one of the most important processes responsible for abiotic transformations of a xenobiotic in the environment, mainly in surface water [13]. Often the transformation process forms products that are more toxic than the parent compound [47]; hence, there is a need to consider transformation products during the environmental risk assessment process [8]. Although the photochemical behaviour of a molecule depends on the presence of peculiar functional groups, given the heterogeneity and, often, the structural complexity of these pollutants, it is frequently difficult to predict or rationalize their photochemical behavior. Carbamate function is present in a wide number of biologically active compounds. In particular, carbamate pesticides are an important group which are widely used through the world [9]. Although weak, carbamates exhibit absorption of radiation present in sunlight (>290 nm), and this requires the understanding of their photochemical behaviour [10]. The most general photochemical event, mainly observed in O-aryl derivatives, leads to rearranged products, via photo-Fries reaction and/or fragmentation [10, 11]. Less frequent is this type of photorearrangement in N-aryl carbamates [12, 13]. Recently, we studied the photochemical reactivity of two carbamate herbicides, chlorpropham, and phenisopham (Scheme 1) [14].

Scheme 1

Irradiation of phenisopham in aqueous solution at 310 nm led to photo-Fries rearranged products involving the cleavage of O-aryl N-aryl carbamate function. As observed in other cases [12], the O-alkyl N-aryl carbamate was unreactive, and this result was also found in the irradiation of chlorpropham. In the latter case the N-aryl moiety reacted and gave isopropyl 3-hydroxycarbanilate by photosubstitution of aryl chlorine with a hydroxyl group [12, 14]. For the two pesticides different phototransformations were observed [14]. These results induced us to gain more information about the photochemical reactivity of N-aryl O-aryl carbamates that combine functions present in the pesticides examined. In particular, we prepared six model compounds 1 (Figure 1) and focused our attention on the photoproducts formation in aqueous solution (H2O/CH3CN 1 : 1 v/v to have clear solutions) under UVB irradiation (>300 nm) in order that our investigation may be more relevant to environmental studies.

Figure 1: Synthetic carbamates investigated.

2. Materials and Methods

2.1. Samples and Reagents

Aniline, 3-chloroaniline, 4-chloroaniline, and N-ethylaniline were purchased by Alfa Aesar. 3-Chloro-N-ethylaniline, 4-chloro-N-ethylaniline, and phenyl chloroformate were purchased by Sigma-Aldrich. All chemicals were used without further purification.

Milli-Q water (Millipore) was used to prepare aqueous solutions. Acetonitrile was of HPLC grade (Sigma-Aldrich).

2.2. Analytical Instruments

HPLC experiments were carried out on an Agilent 1100 HPLC system, equipped with an UV detector (set at 230 nm), using a RP-18 column (Gemini, 5 μm, 110 A, 250 × 4.6 mm). A mixture of A (H2O containing 1% formic acid)/B (CH3CN) 1 : 1 (v/v) was used as mobile phase at a constant flow rate of 0.8 mL/min. Analytical and preparative TLC was made on Kieselgel 60 F254 plates with 0.2 mm and 0.5 or 1 mm layer thickness, respectively (Merck).

Proton NMR spectra were recorded on a Varian Inova-500 instrument operating at 499.6 MHz and referenced with deuterated solvents (CDCl3). Electronic impact mass spectra (EI-MS) were obtained with a GC-MS QP5050A (Shimadzu) equipped with a 70 eV EI detector. UV-Vis spectra were recorded with a Varian Cary 300 UV-Vis spectrophotometer. Melting point determinations were performed by a Gallenkamp melting point apparatus.

2.3. Synthesis of Diaryl Carbamates 1

In a typical experimental procedure, to a solution of each aniline (15 mmol) in dry dichloromethane (26 mL), 1.6 mL of phenyl chloroformate (13 mmol) was added dropwise. The mixture was stirred at 0°C for 1 h and then it was kept at room temperature for 30 min. The reaction mixture was neutralized with a saturated solution of sodium hydrogen carbonate and extracted with CH2Cl2 (3 × 50 mL). The combined organic layers were washed with brine, dried with anhydrous sodium sulfate, filtered and evaporated under reduced pressure. The residue was purified by silica gel column chromatography using light petroleum/diethyl ether 7 : 3 v/v (compounds 1c and 1e were purified using light petroleum/EtOAc 7 : 3 and 9 : 1 v/v, resp.) to give carbamic compounds 1 with yields generally >95%. Products 1a, 1c, 1e [15], and 1f [16] were identified by comparison of their NMR spectra with those reported in the literature. The new products 1b and 1d were characterized on the basis of their spectral data.

Phenyl N-3-Chlorophenyl-N-ethylcarbamate (1b). Oil; EI-MS 275, 182, 153; UV (H2O/CH3CN 1/1) nm 236 (log ε 3.7); 1H NMR (CDCl3) δ 7.36–7.17 (m, overlapped signals, 9H), 3.83 (br q, 2H), 1.25 (br t, 3H).

Phenyl N-4-Chlorophenyl-N-ethylcarbamate (1d). mp 75.9–76.7°C (hexane/ethyl acetate); EI-MS 275, 182, 153; UV (H2O/CH3CN 1/1) nm 238 (log ε 4.1); 1H NMR (CDCl3) δ 7.38–7.25 (m, overlapped signals, 6H), 7.18 (t, = 7.3 Hz, 1H), 7.10 (br s, 2H), 3.81 (br q, 2H), 1.23 (br t, 3H).

2.4. Photolysis Experiments

Irradiation was conducted in a Helios Italquartz multirays merry-go-round photoreactor equipped with six 15 W UV-B lamps with a maximal output at ca. 310 nm (1 mW cm−2). Samples were irradiated in quartz tubes (20 × 1 cm, 25 mL). 1 × 10−3 M solutions of each carbamate 1 (50–90 mg) in H2O/CH3CN 1 : 1 v/v were irradiated and analyzed by HPLC and 1H NMR at different times. The irradiation experiments were not stopped until starting compound was degraded at least for 20–30%. The content of all tubes was collected and evaporated. The residue was analyzed by 1H NMR and then chromatographed using light petroleum/Et2O 6 : 4 v/v. Percentages of photoproducts in the irradiation mixtures were deduced by integration of isolated NMR signals and confirmed by chromatography. Compounds 2a [17] and 5c (=1e) [15] were identified by comparison of their NMR spectra with those reported in the literature while compounds 2c, 3c, 8f, 9f, and 4-hydroxybenzoic acid (7) were identified by comparison of their proton NMR spectra with those of authentic samples (Aurora Building Blocks and Aldrich).

2.5. Spectroscopic Data for New Photoproducts

Phenyl N-3-Acetamidophenylcarbamate (3a). Oil; EI-MS 270, 176, 134, 94; UV (H2O/CH3CN 1/1) nm 228 (log ε 3.8); 1H NMR (CDCl3) δ 7.75 (br s, 1H), 7.39 (t, = 7.9 Hz, 2H), 7.29–7.22 (m, 4H), 7.18 (d, = 7.5 Hz, 3H), 7.04 (br s, 1H), 2.16 (s, 3H).

Phenyl N-Ethyl-N-3-hydroxyphenylcarbamate (2b). Oil; EI-MS 257, 164, 136; UV (H2O/CH3CN 1/1) nm 275 (log ε 3.4); 1H NMR (CDCl3) δ 7.38 (t, = 7.6 Hz, 2H), 7.23 (t, = 8.0 Hz, 1H), 7.30 (t, = 7.3 Hz, 1H), 7.10 (d, = 4.5 Hz, 2H), 6.87 (d, = 7.9 Hz, 1H), 6.78 (s, 1H), 6.72 (d, = 7.8 Hz, 1H), 3.80 (br q, 2H), 1.24 (br t, 3H).

Phenyl N-3-acetamidophenyl-N-ethylcarbamate (3b). Oil; EI-MS 298, 205, 177, 135; UV (H2O/CH3CN 1/1) nm 275 (log ε 3.2), 244 (log ε 4.0); 1H NMR (CDCl3) δ 7.61 (s, 1H), 7.52 (s, 1H), 7.33–7.29 (m, overlapped signals, 4H), 7.16 (t, = 7.1 Hz, 1H), 7.10 (br s, 2H), 7.04 (d, = 7.2 Hz, 1H), 3.81 (br q, 2H), 2.12 (s, 3H), 1.24 (br t, 3H).

Phenyl N-4-Acetamidophenyl-N-ethylcarbamate (3d). mp 156.6–159.0°C (chloroform/methanol); EI-MS 298, 205, 177, 135; UV (H2O/CH3CN 1/1) nm 250 (log ε 10.2); 1H NMR (CD3OD): δ 7.63 (d, = 9.0 Hz, 4H), 7.34 (br m, 2H), 7.31 (d, = 9.3 Hz, 2H), 7.20 (br m, 1H), 7.05 (br s, 1H), 4.10 (q, = 7.1 Hz, 2H), 2.16 (s, 3H), 1.24 (t, = 7.1 Hz, 3H).

3. Results and Discussion

Phenyl meta-chlorophenyl carbamates 1a,b can be distinguished by the presence of chlorine on the N-aryl group (function present in chlorpropham) and by the different substitution on nitrogen (function present in phenisopham) (Figure 2). Irradiation was followed by HPLC and interrupted at a conversion of ca. 20–40%. Compound 1a was converted for 30% after 2 h. Preparative TLC chromatography led to isolation of unreacted 1a (71%), hydroxy derivative 2a (14%), and a product (15%) to which structure 3a was assigned by spectroscopic means (Figure 2). In particular, mass spectrum of 3a showed the absence of isotopic chlorine peaks and a peak at 270  indicating the presence of another nitrogen. Moreover, in the proton spectrum a typical singlet at δ 2.16 associated to a methyl linked to a carbonyl group and in the 13C NMR a quaternary low-field signal at δ 168.4 indicated the substitution of chlorine with NHCOCH3 group. The percentages of photoproducts were deduced by integration of selected signals in the proton NMR of the irradiation mixture and confirmed by chromatography.

Figure 2: Irradiation of compounds 1a and 1b.

Similar results were obtained starting from N-ethyl derivative 1b which, however, required a longer irradiation time. After 14 h of irradiation 1b was 78% in addition to 2b (10%) and 3b (12%) (Figure 2).

The different photodegradation rates of 1a and 1b could be due to the different intensities of UV absorptions. Indeed, as shown in Figure 3, the N-monosubstituted carbamate 1a exhibits stronger absorption bands than the N-ethyl analogue 1b, even in 280–300 nm range.

Figure 3: UV-vis spectra of 1a and 1b in H2O/CH3CN (1 : 1 v/v) (5 × 10−5 M).

Despite the presence of the O-aryl moiety, the photoinduced carbamate cleavage was not observed and only dehalogenated products, phenols 2a,b, and acetamides 3a,b, were isolated. Photohydrolysis to give phenols is the most frequent photoreaction of halogenated aromatic compounds in water and is reported to occur by a photoionization process, favoured by the medium, [18, 19]. Accordingly, phenols 2a,b should derive from the radical cation 4 that can be trapped by water (pathway a, Figure 4) [18, 19]. The attack on the radical cation 4 by nitrogen of acetonitrile and subsequent hydrolysis should give compounds 3a,b (pathway b, Figure 4). Compounds 2 and 3 can also be formed by nucleophilic solvent trapping of an aryl cation deriving from homolysis, followed by in-cage electron transfer [18].

Figure 4: Suggested pathways for photoproducts 2a,b, and 3a,b formation.

Acetamides as 3 have been found by irradiating halogenated compounds [20] or dienes [21] in aqueous acetonitrile, and it has been shown that this solvent is involved in their formation in a so-called photo-Ritter reaction [20, 21]. Control experiments showed that, as expected, the amounts of photo-Ritter products 3a,b decreased with increasing the water content in the reaction medium. For example, amount of 3a decreased from 15% to 5% when the acetonitrile amount decreased from 50% to 30%. It is interesting to note that the conversion of 1c is accelerated (30% after only 1 h) by water increase in the reaction medium, because the first photochemical event is the photoionization that is favoured by the aqueous medium.

Halogen-substitution reactions were also observed for para-chloroderivatives 1c,d (Figure 5). After 2 h 1c was almost completely degraded. However, compounds 2c and 3c were recovered in small amounts. The main product was a dechlorinated compound, the diphenyl carbamate 5c (=1e, see Figures 5 and 7), in addition to a significant amount of polymeric material. After 2 h the yields were 1c (10%), 2c (8%), 3c (15%) 5c (34%), and polymeric material (ca. 33%). As 1b, N-ethyl derivative 1d was converted slowly and the sole product identified was acetamide 3d (after 10 h 1d (71%), 3d (29%)) (Figure 5).

Figure 5: Irradiation of compounds 1c and 1d.

Photoreduction has been sometimes observed in the irradiation of halogenated aromatic compounds, mainly in para-substituted derivatives [18]. A radical mechanism has been proposed so that formation of 5c should occur probably via intermediate 6c (Figure 6). It is also plausible that, as suggested in similar cases [19], a carbene intermediate is involved in the formation of 5c and also 2c, thus justifying the absence of similar compounds for 1d (Figure 6).

Figure 6: Suggested intermediates for the photoproducts 5c and 2c.
Figure 7: Irradiation of compounds 1e and 1f.

Unsubstituted N-aryl compounds 1e and 1f exhibited high photostability. After 42 h <5% of 1e was converted and only hydroxybenzoic acid 7 was identified by HPLC (Figure 7). Differently, from what was observed for the couples 1a,b and 1c,d, N-ethyl derivative 1f appeared more photoreactive than its NH analogue 1e. Indeed, after the same irradiation time (42 h) it was converted for 24% and chromatography gave 1f (75%), the acid 7 (18%), the para-benzamide 8f (6%) and the ortho-benzamide 9f (trace) (Figure 7).

Structures 8f and 9f derive by a typical photo-Fries rearrangement. As well known [22], this reaction occurs via homolytic cleavage of the carbonyl-heteroatom single bond giving the caged radical pair 10 (Figure 8). In-cage recombination in para and/or ortho-position affords the acyl migration products as 8f and 9f, respectively.

Figure 8: Suggested pathways for the photoproducts 8 and 9 formation.

para-Hydroxybenzoic acid 7 could be formed by hydrolysis of 8 due to the long water contact for the prolonged irradiation. Stabilization of radicals by substitution could account for the breakage less difficult in N-ethyl compound 1f than 1e.

4. Conclusions

Our results show that the N-aryl O-aryl substitution is not a sufficient condition to have a photo-induced breaking of the carbamate bond. This process is completely overcome in the presence of other photosensitive functions as chlorine on the N-aryl ring. In the latter case photosolvolysis or photoreduction occurs depending on the halogen position on the ring.

The N-substitution does not affect the product formation but influences the degradation rate due to radical stabilization or to a lower absorption of UVB radiation.

An interesting result is the obtaining of the photo-Ritter products derived from the nucleophilic trapping of radical cations by acetonitrile. We proved that when the pesticide chlorpropham was irradiated in H2O/acetonitrile 1 : 1 v/v, a product with similar spectroscopic data as 3c,d was formed.

Acetonitrile is generally used in environmental investigation as cosolvent to have clear aqueous solutions of compounds slightly soluble in water. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in the Fate and Transformation of chemicals Test Guidelines [23] suggests that the use of acetonitrile should be preferably not exceeding 1%, but co-solvent percentages up to 10% are allowed. Hence, to avoid mistakes, characterization of photoproducts is necessary.

Conflict of Interests

The authors declare that there is no conflict of interests regarding the publication of this paper.


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