Sequential Proton Transfer Through Water Bridges in Acid-Base Reactions

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Science  07 Oct 2005:
Vol. 310, Issue 5745, pp. 83-86
DOI: 10.1126/science.1117756

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The proton transfer mechanism between aqueous Brønsted acids and bases, forming an encounter pair, has been studied in real time with ultrafast infrared spectroscopy. The transient intermediacy of a hydrated proton, formed by ultrafast dissociation from an optically triggered photoacid proton donor ROH, is implicated by the appearance of an infrared absorption marker band before protonation of the base, B. Thus, proton exchange between an acid and a base in aqueous solution is shown to proceed by a sequential, von Grotthuss–type, proton-hopping mechanism through water bridges. The spectra suggest a hydronium cation H3O+ structure for the intermediate, stabilized in the Eigen configuration in the ionic complex RO···H3O+···B.

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