The Journal of chemical physics

A computational study of ultrafast acid dissociation and acid-base neutralization reactions. I. The model.

PMID 20687634


Ultrafast, time-resolved investigations of acid-base neutralization reactions have recently been performed using systems containing the photoacid 8-hydroxypyrene-1,3,6-trisulfonic acid trisodium salt (HPTS) and various Bronsted bases. Two conflicting neutralization mechanisms have been formulated by Mohammed et al. [Science 310, 83 (2005)] and Siwick et al. [J. Am. Chem. Soc. 129, 13412 (2007)] for the same acid-base system. Herein an ab initio molecular dynamics based computational model is formulated, which is able to investigate the validity of the proposed mechanisms in the general context of ground-state acid-base neutralization reactions. Our approach consists of using 2,4,6-tricyanophenol (exp. pKa congruent with 1) as a model for excited-state HPTS( *) (pKa congruent with 1.4) and carboxylate ions for the accepting base. We employ our recently proposed dipole-field/quantum mechanics (QM) treatment [P. Maurer and R. Iftimie, J. Chem. Phys. 132, 074112 (2010)] of the proton donor and acceptor molecules. This approach allows one to tune the free energy of neutralization to any desired value as well as model initial nonequilibrium hydration effects caused by a sudden increase in acidity, making it possible to achieve a more realistic comparison with experimental data than could be obtained via a full-QM treatment of the entire system. It is demonstrated that the dipole-field/QM model reproduces correctly key properties of the 2,4,6-tricyanophenol acid molecule including gas-phase proton dissociation energies and dipole moments, and condensed-phase hydration structure and pKa values.