Experimental quantification of electrostatics in X-H⋯φ hydrogen bonds

Miguel Saggu, Nicholas M. Levinson, Steven G. Boxer

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103 Scopus citations


Hydrogen bonds are ubiquitous in chemistry and biology. The physical forces that govern hydrogen-bonding interactions have been heavily debated, with much of the discussion focused on the relative contributions of electrostatic vs quantum mechanical effects. In principle, the vibrational Stark effect, the response of a vibrational mode to electric field, can provide an experimental method for parsing such interactions into their electrostatic and nonelectrostatic components. In a previous study we showed that, in the case of relatively weak O-H⋯φ hydrogen bonds, the O-H bond displays a linear response to an electric field, and we exploited this response to demonstrate that the interactions are dominated by electrostatics (Saggu, M.; Levinson, N. M.; Boxer, S. G. J. Am. Chem. Soc.2011, 133, 17414-17419). Here we extend this work to other X-H⋯φ interactions. We find that the response of the X-H vibrational probe to electric field appears to become increasingly nonlinear in the order O-H < N-H < S-H. The observed effects are consistent with differences in atomic polarizabilities of the X-H groups. Nonetheless, we find that the X-H stretching vibrations of the model compounds indole and thiophenol report quantitatively on the electric fields they experience when complexed with aromatic hydrogen-bond acceptors. These measurements can be used to estimate the electrostatic binding energies of the interactions, which are found to agree closely with the results of energy calculations. Taken together, these results highlight that with careful calibration vibrational probes can provide direct measurements of the electrostatic components of hydrogen bonds.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)18986-18997
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of the American Chemical Society
Issue number46
StatePublished - Nov 21 2012


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