The mechanism of decomposition of dialkylamino diazeniumdiolate salts, R(2)N[NONO](-)M(+), to form nitric oxide, NO, was explored using theoretical methods. B3LYP/6-311+G(d) density functional theory calculations gave the optimized geometries, and energetics were further evaluated with the high accuracy CBS-QB3 method, when feasible. Relative pK(a) values were estimated using the PCM model for aqueous solvation. The terminal oxygen is the most basic site, followed closely by the internal oxygen. Protonation of these sites does not lead to decomposition. However, protonation of the weakly basic amino nitrogen leads to very rapid decomposition and NO generation.
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