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J Phys Chem A. 2008 Jun 26;112(25):5621-7. doi: 10.1021/jp801996m. Epub 2008 Jun 4.

Solvation of propylene oxide in water: vibrational circular dichroism, optical rotation, and computer simulation studies.

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Department of Chemistry, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada T6G 2G2.


The solvation of propylene oxide (PO) in water has been studied using vibrational circular dichroism (VCD) spectroscopy, optical rotation dispersion (ORD) spectroscopy, molecular dynamics simulations, and ab initio calculations. VCD and ORD measurements were carried out for PO as neat liquid, in CCl4, and in water solutions. The classical molecular dynamics simulations were carried out for the PO + water binary mixtures at different concentrations, and the solvation information was derived from the radial distribution functions obtained in the simulations. The total number of water molecules within the closest vicinity of PO was predicted to be about 3. The geometry optimizations, vibrational frequencies, and VCD intensities were evaluated for the PO monomer and the PO-(H2O)n clusters with n = 1-3 , using density functional theory calculations at the B3LYP/aug-cc-pVTZ level of theory. The chirality transfer VCD feature, which is a direct result of the explicit H-bonding between water and the chiral PO solute, was detected experimentally at the water bending band region. This feature exhibits high sensitivity to the solvation structure around PO. Comparison of the calculated and experimental chirality transfer features leads to the conclusion that the PO-water binary complex is the dominating species in aqueous solution at room temperature and the anti conformation, where water is on the opposite side of the oxirane ring of the PO methyl group, is preferred over the syn one. This conclusion is also supported by the complementary ORD studies. Possible contributions from the ternary and quaternary PO-water complexes are also discussed.

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