Chemistry and Physics Faculty Articles


Vibrational Tug-of-War: The pKA Dependence of the Broad Vibrational Features of Strongly Hydrogen-Bonded Carboxylic Acids

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The Journal of Chemical Physics







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Medium and strong hydrogen bonds give rise to broad vibrational features frequently spanning several hundred wavenumbers and oftentimes exhibiting unusual substructures. These broad vibrational features can be modeled from first principles, in a reduced dimensional calculation, that adiabatically separates low-frequency modes, which modulate the hydrogen bond length, from high-frequency OH stretch and bend modes that contribute to the vibrational structure. Previously this method was used to investigate the origin of an unusual vibrational feature frequently found in the spectra of dimers between carboxylic acids and nitrogen-containing aromatic bases that spans over 900 cm−1 and contains two broad peaks. It was found that the width of this feature largely originates from low-frequency modes modulating the hydrogen bond length and that the structure results from Fermi resonance interactions. In this report, we examine how these features change with the relative acid and base strength of the components as reflected by their aqueous pKA values. Dimers with large pKA differences are found to have features that can extend to frequencies below 1000 cm−1. The relationships between mean OH/NH frequency, aqueous pKA, and O–N distance are examined in order to obtain a more rigorous understanding of the origin and shape of the vibrational features. The mean OH/NH frequencies are found to correlate well with O–N distances. The lowest OH stretch frequencies are found in dimer geometries with O–N distances between 2.5 and 2.6 Å. At larger O–N distances, the hydrogen bonding interaction is not as strong, resulting in higher OH stretch frequencies. When the O–N distance is smaller than 2.5 Å, the limited space between the O and N determines the OH stretch frequency, which gives rise to frequencies that decrease with O–N distances. These two effects place a lower limit on the OH stretch frequency which is calculated to be near 700 cm−1. Understanding how the vibrational features of strongly hydrogen-bonded structures depend on the relative pKA and other structural parameters will guide studies of biological structures and analysis of proton transfer studies using photoacids.





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