As we reported recently, endergonic to mildly exergonic electron transfer between neutral aromatics (benzenes and biphenyls) and their radical cations in acetonitrile follows a Sandros-Boltzmann (SB) dependency on the reaction free energy (ΔG); i.e., the rate constant is proportional to 1/[1 + exp(ΔG/RT)]. We now report deviations from this dependency when one reactant is sterically crowded: 1,4-di-tert-butylbenzene (C1), 1,3,5-tri-tert-butylbenzene (C2), or hexaethylbenzene (C3). Obvious deviation from SB behavior is observed with C1. Stronger deviation is observed with the more crowded C2 and C3, where steric hindrance increases the interplanar separation at contact by ~1 Å, significantly decreasing the π orbital overlap. Consequently, electron transfer (k(et)) within the contact pair becomes slower than diffusional separation (k(-d)), causing deviation from the SB dependency, especially near ΔG = 0. Fitting the data to a standard electron-transfer theory gives small matrix elements (~5-7 meV) and reasonable reorganization energies. A small systematic difference between reactions of C3 with benzenes vs biphenyls is rationalized in terms of small differences in the electron-transfer parameters that are consistent with previous data. The influence of solvent viscosity on the competition between k(et) and k(-d) was investigated by comparing reactions in acetonitrile and propylene carbonate.
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