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New Mechanism for Autocatalytic Decomposition of H2CO3 in the Vapor Phase

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journal contribution
posted on 03.04.2014, 00:00 by Sourav Ghoshal, Montu K. Hazra
In this article, we present high level ab initio calculations investigating the energetics of a new autocatalytic decomposition mechanism for carbonic acid (H2CO3) in the vapor phase. The calculation have been performed at the MP2 level of theory in conjunction with aug-cc-pVDZ, aug-cc-pVTZ, and 6-311++G­(3df,3pd) basis sets as well as at the CCSD­(T)/aug-cc-pVTZ level. The present study suggests that this new decomposition mechanism is effectively a near-barrierless process at room temperature and makes vapor phase of H2CO3 unstable even in the absence of water molecules. Our calculation at the MP2/aug-cc-pVTZ level predicts that the effective barrier, defined as the difference between the zero-point vibrational energy (ZPE) corrected energy of the transition state and the total energy of the isolated starting reactants in terms of bimolecular encounters, is nearly zero for the autocatalytic decomposition mechanism. The results at the CCSD­(T)/aug-cc-pVTZ level of calculations suggest that the effective barrier, as defined above, is sensitive to some extent to the levels of calculations used, nevertheless, we find that the effective barrier height predicted at the CCSD­(T)/aug-cc-pVTZ level is very small or in other words the autocatalytic decomposition mechanism presented in this work is a near-barrierless process as mentioned above. Thus, we suggest that this new autocatalytic decomposition mechanism has to be considered as the primary mechanism for the decomposition of carbonic acid, especially at its source, where the vapor phase concentration of H2CO3 molecules reaches its highest levels.