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Solvent Organization and Rate Regulation of a Menshutkin Reaction by Oriented External Electric Fields are Revealed by Combined MD and QM/MM Calculations
, Stuyver T., Kalita S., Shaik S.
Published in American Chemical Society
PMID: 32369357
Volume: 142
Issue: 22
Pages: 9955 - 9965
When and how do external electric fields (EEFs) lead to catalysis in the presence of a (polar or nonpolar) solvent? This is the question that is addressed here using a combination of molecular dynamics (MD) simulations, quantum mechanical/molecular mechanical calculations with EEF, and quantum mechanical/(local) electric field calculations. The paper focuses on a model reaction, the Menshutkin reaction between CH3I and pyridine in three solvents of varying polarity. Using MD simulations, we find that the EEF causes the solvent to undergo organization; the solvent molecules gradually align with the applied field as the field strength increases. The collective orientation of the solvent molecules modifies the electrostatic environment around the Menshutkin species and induces a global electric field pointing in the opposite direction of the applied EEF. The combination of these two entangled effects leads to partial or complete screening of the EEF, with the extent of screening being proportional to the polarity/polarizability of the solvent. Nevertheless, we find that catalysis of the Menshutkin reaction inevitably emerges once the EEF exceeds the opposing field of the organizing solvent, i.e., once polarization of the Menshutkin complex is observed to set in. Overall, our analysis provides a lucid and pictorial interpretation of the behavior of solutions in the presence of EEFs and indicates that EEF-mediated catalysis should, in principle, be feasible in bulk setups, especially for nonpolar and mildly polar solvents. By application of the charge-transfer paradigm, it is shown that the emergence of OEEF catalysis in solution can be generalized to other reactions as well. Copyright © 2020 American Chemical Society.
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Published in American Chemical Society
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