Does Ammonia Hydrogen Bond?

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Science  18 Dec 1987:
Vol. 238, Issue 4834, pp. 1670-1674
DOI: 10.1126/science.238.4834.1670


Spectroscopic characterizations of the stereochemistry of complexes of ammonia (NH3) have strongly confirmed some long-held ideas about the weak interactions of NH3 while casting doubt on others. As expected, NH3 is observed to be a nearly universal proton acceptor, accepting hydrogen bonds from even some of the weakest proton donors. Surprisingly, no evidence has been found to support the view that NH3 acts as a proton donor through hydrogen bonding. A critical evaluation of the work that has been done to gather such evidence, as well as of earlier work involving condensed-phase observations, suggests that NH3 might well be best described as a powerful hydrogen-bond acceptor with little propensity to donate hydrogen bonds.