Phenolic compounds are widely used for a number of purposes, including medical drugs, cosmetics, food additives, and supplementary foods, and are often exposed to the ultraviolet (UV) rays of the sun. We herein examined free radicals produced from phenolic compounds by UV irradiation using an electron paramagnetic resonance (ESR)-spin trapping technique with 5,5-dimethyl-1-pyrroline-N-oxide (DMPO). The ESR signals of DMPO adducts of the hydrogen radical (DMPO–H) and hydroxyl radical were detected following the UV irradiation of polyhydric phenols, such as hydroquinone, catechol, resorcinol, pyrogallol, and methyl gallate, in an aqueous solution. Radical adducts were not detected in monohydric phenols, such as phenol and methylparaben. The signal intensity of DMPO–H became stronger as the concentration of phenolic compounds increased. The signal intensity of DMPO–H decreased when the solution in which air was replaced with N2O, a scavenger of hydrated electrons, was irradiated. However, sodium formate, a scavenger of the hydrogen radical, did not affect the signal intensity of DMPO–H. The signal intensity of DMPO–H became stronger as the pH of the solution increased. Semiquinone-type radicals increased following the UV irradiation of solutions of polyhydric phenols in the absence of DMPO. These results indicate that hydrated electrons are generated by the UV irradiation of polyhydric phenols, and that phenoxide ions are responsible for the production of hydrated electrons.
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We thank our student, Ms. Tomomi Sato, for her excellent technical assistance with the experiments.