Perspective on diabatic models of chemical reactivity as illustrated by the gas-phase SN2 reaction of acetate ion with 1,2-dichloroethane

Rosendo Valero, Lingchun Song, Jiali Gao, Donald G. Truhlar

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

31 Scopus citations


Diabatic models are widely employed for studying chemical reactivity in condensed phases and enzymes, but there has been little discussion of the pros and cons of various diabatic representations for this purpose. Here we discuss and contrast six different schemes for computing diabatic potentials for a charge rearrangement reaction. They include (i) the variational diabatic configurations (VDC) constructed by variationally optimizing individual valence bond structures and (ii) the consistent diabatic configurations (CDC) obtained by variationally optimizing the ground-state adiabatic energy, both in the nonorthogonal molecular orbital valence bond (MOVE) method, along with the orthogonalized (iii) VDC-MOVB and (iv) CDC-MOVB models. In addition, we consider (v) the fourfold way (based on diabatic molecular orbitals and configuration uniformity), and (vi) empirical valence bond (EVB) theory. To make the considerations concrete, we calculate diabatic electronic states and diabatic potential energies along the reaction path that connects the reactant and the product ion-molecule complexes of the gas-phase bimolecular nucleophilic substitution (SN2) reacton of 1,2-dichloethane (DCE) with acetate ion, which is a model reaction corresponding to the reaction catalyzed by haloalkane dehalogenase. We utilize ab initio block-localized molecular orbital theory to construct the MOVB diabatic states and ab initio multiconfiguration quasidegenerate perturbation theory to construct the fourfold-way diabatic states; the latter are calculated at reaction path geometries obtained with the M06-2X density functional. The EVB diabatic states are computed with parameters taken from the literature. The MOVB and fourfold-way adiabatic and diabatic potential energy profiles along the reaction path are in qualitative but not quantitative agreement with each other. In order to validate that these wave-function-based diabatic states are qualitatively correct, we show that the reaction energy and barrier for the adiabatic ground state, obtained with these methods, agree reasonably well with the results of high-level calculations using the composite G3SX and G3SX(MP3) methods and the BMC-CCSD multicoefficient correlation method. However, a comparison of the EVB gas-phase adabatic ground-state reaction path with those obtained from MOVB and with the fourfold way reveals that the EVB reaction path geometries show a systematic shift towards the products region and that the EVB lowest-energy path has a much lower barrier. The free energies of solvation and activation energy in water reported from dynamical calculations based on EVB also imply a low activation barrier in the gas phase. In addition, calculations of the free energy of solvation using the recently proposed SM8 continuum solvation model with CM4M partial atomic charges lead to an activation barrier in reasonable agreement with experiment only when the geometries and the gas-phase barrier are those obtained from electronic structure calculations, i.e., methods i-v. These comparisons show the danger of basing the diabatic states on molecular mechanics without the explicit calculation of electronic wave functions. Furthermore, comparison of schemes i-v with one another shows that significantly different quantitative results can be obtained by using different methods for extracting diabatic states from wave function calculations, and it is important for each user to justify the choice of diabatization method in the context of its intended use.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-22
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of Chemical Theory and Computation
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2009


Dive into the research topics of 'Perspective on diabatic models of chemical reactivity as illustrated by the gas-phase SN2 reaction of acetate ion with 1,2-dichloroethane'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this