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The Historic Camphenyl Cation:  A Detailed Structure Evaluation Including Solvation Energy Calculations

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journal contribution
posted on 03.10.2001, 00:00 by Patrick Brunelle, Ted S. Sorensen, Christoph Taeschler
The structure of the camphenyl cation 1 has been studied in detail, using both experimental and computational approaches. Like others, we find only one structure on the camphenyl−isobornyl cation PE surface, but this single structure shows some unusual features. These include a very soft PE surface for movement along the C2−C6 axis (a nonbonding distance in a classical description of the cation), and a result of this is that very high computational methods (optimization at MP4 or QCI levels) are required in order to get structural minima that “fit” the experimental data. This PE surface has been probed computationally using fixed C2−C6 distances, and when one also calculates chemical shifts for these “fixed” structures, one sees calculated 13C NMR chemical shifts for the C2 carbon that are hugely dependent on this fixed distance value, giving near-linear slopes of ca. 25 ppm/0.1 Å distance change. Since this distance can vary over at least 0.6 Å with relatively small calculated energy changes, there is a total range of ca. 150 ppm involved here. In a second part of this work, and in response to a recent paper in which the historic Meerwein “carbocation intermediate” proposal was rejected, we have calculated solvation energies (SCI-PCM method) for four carbocation systems, including 1. We find carbocation solvation energies (∈ = 10 “solvent”) of 45−53 kcal/mol, and where comparison can be made, the data correlate well with the literature. On the basis of these results, we re-affirm the Meerwein “carbocation” mechanism, but in order to accommodate only a single carbocation intermediate, we offer a description that amounts to a subtle variation of both the nonclassical ion proposal and Meerwein's “two cation” mechanism, namely that the camphenyl cation, 1, as a ground-state structure, can be described as only very weakly interacting in the C2−C6 bridging sense, but that the PE surface along this “bond” is so shallow that an energy input of only 4−6 kcal/mol can produce a bridged “structure”. This mechanism explains the preferred formation of exo products in both the camphenyl and isobornyl systems, isotopic exchange of chloride in camphenyl chloride, and it allows for partial racemization of the camphenyl−isobornyl products in the reaction.