The reaction of singlet molecular oxygen with a series of cyclic and acyclic α-diimines was studied. Time-resolved methods were used to measure total reaction rate constants and steady-state methods were used to determine chemical reaction rate constants. GC-MS was used to tentatively assign the reaction products. 5,6-Disubstituted cyclic α-diimines are singlet oxygen quenchers, but become more effective in polar solvents. A reaction mechanism involving a perepoxide intermediate or transition state leading to a hydroperoxide seems to be a key reaction path for product formation. A replacement of the phenyl substituent for a methyl substituent opens up an additional reaction involving a perepoxide-like exciplex, which increases singlet oxygen quenching of the cyclic α-diimines. The reactivity of 5,6-disubstituted cyclic α-diimines towards singlet oxygen is highly dependent on steric interactions arising from vicinal phenyl rings and from electronic effects. 1,4-Disubstituted acyclic α-diimines are, by comparison, moderate or poor singlet oxygen quenchers. Total rate constants are scarcely dependent on solvent properties, but instead correlate with the Hildebrand parameter. These results are explained in terms of a mechanism involving a dioxetane-like exciplex that gives rise to a charged intermediate leading to products.
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