Symmetries of Hydrogen Bonds in Solution

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Science  09 Dec 1994:
Vol. 266, Issue 5191, pp. 1665-1668
DOI: 10.1126/science.266.5191.1665


The nuclear magnetic resonance method of isotopic perturbation can distinguish between single- and double-well potentials in intramolecularly hydrogen-bonded monoanions of dicarboxylic acids. These are classic cases of a "strong," symmetric hydrogen bond in the crystal. The observed carbon-13 isotope shifts induced by the substitution of oxygen-18 demonstrate that these monoanions exist as a single symmetric structure in a nonpolar solvent but as two equilibrating tautomers in aqueous solution. The change is attributed to the disorder of the aqueous environment. These are simple counterexamples to the hope that the crystal structure reveals the actual molecular structure in aqueous solution.