Intramolecular isotope effects during permanganate oxidation and acid hydrolysis of methyl tert-butyl ether


  • Julien Maxime
  • Gori Didier
  • Höhener Patrick
  • Robins Richard
  • Remaud Gerald

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Stable isotopes have been widely used to monitor remediation of environmental contaminants over the last decades. This approach gives a good mechanistic description of natural or assisted degradation of organic pollutants, such as methyl tert-butyl ether (MTBE). Since abiotic degradation seems to be the most promising assisted attenuation method, the isotopic fractionation associated with oxidation and hydrolysis processes need to be further investigated in order to understand better these processes and make their monitoring more efficient. In this study, position-specific isotope effects (PSIEs) associated with permanganate oxidation and acid hydrolysis of MTBE were determined using isotope ratio monitoring by 13C Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Spectrometry (irm-13C NMR) combined with isotope ratio monitoring by Mass Spectrometry (irm-MS). The use of this Position-Specific Isotopic Analysis (PSIA) method makes it possible to observe a specific normal isotope effect (IE) associated with each of these two abiotic degradation mechanisms. The present work demonstrates that the 13C isotope pattern of the main degradation product, tert-butyl alcohol (TBA), depends on the chemical reaction by which it is produced. Furthermore, this study also demonstrates that PSIA at natural abundance can give new insights into reaction mechanisms and that this methodology is very promising for the future of modeling the remediation of organic contaminants.

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