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J Phys Chem A. 2011 Aug 18;115(32):8816-21. doi: 10.1021/jp203436e. Epub 2011 Jul 21.

Hybrid quantum mechanics/molecular mechanics-based molecular dynamics simulation of acid-catalyzed dehydration of polyols in liquid water.

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Department of Chemical Engineering, University of Delaware, Newark, Delaware 19716, USA.


We use the conversion of protonated glycerol to acrolein for a case study of the mechanism of acid-catalyzed dehydration of polyols in aqueous environments. We employ hybrid Quamtum Mechanics/Molecular Mechanics Molecular Dynamics (QM/MM MD) simulations with biased sampling and perform free energy calculations for the elementary steps of the reaction. We investigate the effects of solvent dynamics and in particular the role of quantum mechanical water in the dehydration mechanism. We present results supporting a mechanism that proceeds via water-mediated proton transfers and thus through an enol intermediate. We find that the first dehydration may take place by two, low-energy pathways requiring, respectively, 20.9 and 18.8 kcal/mol of activation free energy. The second dehydration requires 19.9 kcal/mol of activation free energy while for the overall reaction we compute a free energy change of -8 kcal/mol.


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