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High-Level VSCF/VCI Calculations Decode the Vibrational Spectrum of the Aqueous Proton
journal contributionposted on 2019-08-13, 14:36 authored by Qi Yu, William B. Carpenter, Nicholas H. C. Lewis, Andrei Tokmakoff, Joel M. Bowman
The hydrated excess proton is a common species in aqueous chemistry, which complexes with water in a variety of structures. The infrared spectrum of the aqueous proton is particularly sensitive to this array of structures, which manifests as continuous IR absorption from 1000 to 3000 cm–1 known as the “proton continuum”. Because of the extreme breadth of the continuum and strong anharmonicity of the involved vibrational modes, this spectrum has eluded straightforward interpretation and simulation. Using protonated water hexamer clusters from reactive molecular dynamics trajectories, and focusing on their central H+(H2O)2 structures’ spectral contribution, we reproduce the linear IR spectrum of the aqueous proton with a high-level local monomer quantum method and highly accurate many-body potential energy surface. The accuracy of this approach is first verified in the vibrational spectra of the two isomers of the protonated water hexamer in the gas phase. We then apply this approach to 800 H+(H2O)6 clusters, also written as [H+(H2O)2](H2O)4, drawn from multistate empirical valence bond simulations of the bulk liquid to calculate the infrared spectrum of the aqueous proton complex. Incorporation of anharmonic effects to the vibrational potential and quantum mechanical treatment of the proton produces a better agreement to the infrared spectrum compared to that of the double-harmonic approximation. We assess the correlation of the proton stretching mode with different atomistic coordinates, finding the best correlation with ⟨ROH⟩, the expectation value of the proton–oxygen distance ROH. We also decompose the IR spectrum based on normal mode vibrations and ⟨ROH⟩ to provide insight on how different frequency regions in the continuum report on different configurations, vibrational modes, and mode couplings.