Structure and torsional dynamics of the water octamer from THz laser spectroscopy near 215 μm

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Science  03 Jun 2016:
Vol. 352, Issue 6290, pp. 1194-1197
DOI: 10.1126/science.aad8625

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A close-up look at eight water molecules

A raindrop may look small, but it contains far too much water to model with the highest chemical precision. Theorists rely on studies of clusters with just a few molecules to enhance their understanding of the quantum-mechanical forces at play in the liquid. Cole et al. now report a high-resolution spectrum in the terahertz regime of the eight-membered cluster. By resolving 99 absorption lines associated with a collective torsional mode, the authors distinguish prolate and oblate isomers that are very similar in energy.

Science, this issue p. 1194


Clusters of eight water molecules play an important role in theoretical analysis of aqueous structure and dynamics but have proven to be challenging experimental targets. Here we report the high-resolution spectroscopic characterization of the water octamer. Terahertz (THz) vibration-rotation-tunneling (VRT) spectroscopy resolved 99 transitions with 1 part per million precision in a narrow range near 46.5 wave numbers, which were assigned to the h16 octamer via detailed isotope dilution experiments. Fitting to a semi-rigid symmetric top model supports predictions of two coexisting cuboidal structures and provides precise values for the changes in their rotational constants. Comparison with theory and previous spectroscopic data provides a characterization of the two structures and the observed torsional vibration and supports the prediction that the D2d symmetry structure is lower in energy than the S4 isomer.

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