Quantum mechanical study of solvent effects in prototype SN2 reactions in solution: Cl- attack on CH3Cl

The Journal of Chemical Physics vol. 140  p. 054109  DOI: 10.1063/1.4863344
PMID/PMCID: PMC3977776 Published: 2014-02-07 

Erich R. Kuechler, Darrin M. York [ ]

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The nucleophilic attack of a chloride ion on methyl chloride is an important prototype SN2 reaction in organic chemistry that is known to be sensitive to the effects of the surrounding solvent. Herein, we develop a highly accurate Specific Reaction Parameter (SRP) model based on the Austin Model 1 Hamiltonian for chlorine to study the effects of solvation into an aqueous environment on the reaction mechanism. To accomplish this task, we apply high-level quantum mechanical calculations to study the reaction in the gas phase and combined quantum mechanical/molecular mechanical simulations with TIP3P and TIP4P-ew water models and the resulting free energy profiles are compared with those determined from simulations using other fast semi-empirical quantum models. Both gas phase and solution results with the SRP model agree very well with experiment and provide insight into the specific role of solvent on the reaction coordinate. Overall, the newly parameterized SRP Hamiltonian is able to reproduce both the gas phase and solution phase barriers, suggesting it is an accurate and robust model for simulations in the aqueous phase at greatly reduced computational cost relative to comparably accurate ab initio and density functional models.