Free radicals are important species in atmospheric chemistry, combustion, plasma environments, interstellar clouds, and biochemistry. Therefore, researchers would like to understand the formation mechanism, structure, stability, reactivity, spectroscopy, and dynamics of these chemical species. However, due to the presence of one or more unpaired electrons, radicals are often very reactive and have short lifetimes, which makes it difficult to conduct experiments. The HOCO radical appears in the atmosphere as well as in combustion environments and plays an important role in the conversion of CO to CO2. Through the interplay between theoretical and experimental investigations, researchers have only recently understood the chemical role of the HOCO radical. In this Account, we systematically describe the current state of knowledge of the HOCO radical based on recent theoretical and experimental studies. This radical's two stable conformers, trans- and cis-HOCO, have been identified by high-level ab initio calculations and experimental spectroscopy. trans-HOCO is more stable by approximately 1.8 kcal/mol. The heat of formation of HOCO (298 K) was determined to be -43.0 ± 0.5 kcal/mol, giving a potential well depth of 30.1 ± 0.5 kcal/mol relative to the asymptote of the reactants OH + CO. The HOCO radical is very reactive. In most reactions between the HOCO radical and atoms, the HOCO radical acts as a hydrogen donor to reaction partners. Generally, the hydrogen is transferred through the formation of an association intermediate, which then proceeds through a molecular elimination step to produce the reaction products. The reaction rates of HOCO with some small radicals fall in the range of 10-11-10-10 cm3 molecule-1 s-1. These results clearly illustrate important features in the reactivity of the HOCO radical with other molecules.
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