Electron Flow Characterization of Charge Transfer for Carbonic Acid to Strong Base Proton Transfer in Aqueous Solution

Philip M. Kiefer, Snehasis Daschakraborty, Dina Pines, Ehud Pines, James T. Hynes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Protonation of the strong base methylamine CH3NH2 by carbonic acid H2CO3 in aqueous solution, HOCOOH···NH2CH3 → HOCOO-···+HNH2CH3, has been previously studied (J. Phys. Chem. B 2016, 109, 2271-2280; J. Phys. Chem. B 2016, 109, 2281-2290) via Car-Parinnello molecular dynamics. This proton transfer (PT) reaction within a hydrogen (H)-bonded complex was found to be barrierless and very rapid, with key reaction coordinates comprising the proton coordinate, the H-bond separation RON, and a solvent coordinate, reflecting the water solvent rearrangement involved in the neutral to ion pair conversion. In the present work, the reaction's charge flow aspects are analyzed in detail, especially a description via Mulliken charge transfer for PT (MCTPT). A natural bond orbital analysis and some extensions of them are employed for the complex's electronic structure during the reaction trajectories. Results demonstrate that consistent with the MCTPT picture, the charge transfer (CT) occurs from a methylamine base nonbonding orbital to a carbonic acid antibonding orbital. A complementary MCTPT reaction product perspective of CT from the antibonding orbital of the HN+ moiety to the nonbonding orbital of the oxygen in the H-bond complex is also presented. σOH and σHN+ bond order expressions show this CT to occur within the H-bond OHN triad, an aspect key for simultaneous bond-breaking and -forming in the PT reaction.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)11473-11490
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Physical Chemistry B
Issue number41
StatePublished - 21 Oct 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry
  • Surfaces, Coatings and Films
  • Materials Chemistry


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