Reaction Mechanism of the Isomerization of Monoterpene Epoxides with Fe3+ as Active Catalytic Specie: A Computational Approach

The reaction mechanism of the isomerization of α and β-pinene epoxides with Fe species as catalysts was studied with density functional theory (DFT) calculations and an experimental methodology. β-pinene epoxide can be isomerized into myrtanal and myrtenol in four steps, while in the case of perillyl alcohol, two additional steps are necessary. On the other hand, high selectivity to myrtanal obtained experimentally can be explained by the number of steps and the kind of the hydrogen transference that is easier for this compound in comparison with myrtenol and perillyl alcohol. A thermodynamic analysis showed that transformation into myrtenol, myrtanal, and perillyl alcohol is spontaneous but transformation into myrtanal is the most favorable. In the case of α-pinene epoxide rearrangement, a mechanistic study was carried out toward the optimization of the possible intermediates. Synthesis of campholenic aldehyde and carveol from α-pinene epoxide was carried out through three steps after the coordination of oxygen to iron, showing that in contrast to carveol formation, campholenic aldehyde synthesis is spontaneous. Analysis of ∇2ρ, the total energy density (H = V + G), and the |V|/G ratio evaluated at the bond critical point of the Fe–O bond showed for both epoxides that such interaction is closed shell instead of covalent. Apparently, α-pinene epoxide can be isomerized faster that β-pinene epoxide with Fe3+, which is in agreement with previous experimental results. This is the first report where a reaction mechanism of isomerization of monoterpenes epoxides is studied based on very detailed experimental and computational methodologies.