Journal of the American Chemical Society

Quantum mechanical/molecular mechanical modeling finds Diels-Alder reactions are accelerated less on the surface of water than in water.

PMID 20148559


Quantum and molecular mechanics calculations for the Diels-Alder reactions of cyclopentadiene with 1,4-naphthoquinone, methyl vinyl ketone, and acrylonitrile have been carried out at the vacuum-water interface and in the gas phase. In conjunction with previous studies of these cycloadditions in dilute solution, a more complete picture of aqueous environmental effects emerges with implications for the origin of observed rate accelerations using heterogeneous aqueous suspensions, "on water" conditions. The pure TIP4P water slab maintains the bulk density and hydrogen-bonding properties in central water layers. The bulk region merges to vacuum over a ca. 5 A band with progressive diminution of the density and hydrogen bonding. The relative free energies of activation and transition structures for the reactions at the interface are found to be intermediate between those calculated in the gas phase and in bulk water; i.e., for the reaction with 1,4-naphthoquinone, the DeltaDeltaG(++) values relative to the gas phase are -3.6 and -7.3 kcal/mol at the interface and in bulk water, respectively. Thus, the results do not support the notion that a water surface is more effective than bulk water for catalysis of such pericyclic reactions. The trend is in qualitative agreement with expectations based on density considerations and estimates of experimental rate constants for the gas phase, a heterogeneous aqueous suspension, and a dilute aqueous solution for the reaction of cyclopentadiene with methyl vinyl ketone. Computed energy pair distributions reveal a uniform loss of 0.5-1.0 hydrogen bond for the reactants and transition states in progressing from bulk water to the vacuum-water interface. Orientational effects are apparent at the surface; e.g., the carbonyl group in the methyl vinyl ketone transition structure is preferentially oriented into the surface. Also, the transition structure for the 1,4-naphthoquinone case is buried more in the surface, and the free energy of activation for this reaction is most similar to the result in bulk water.