Research Article

Crossover from hydrogen to chemical bonding

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Science  08 Jan 2021:
Vol. 371, Issue 6525, pp. 160-164
DOI: 10.1126/science.abe1951

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The nature of short hydrogen bonds

Hydrogen bonding (H-bonding) unquestionably plays an important role in chemical and biological systems and is responsible for some of their unusual properties. Strong, short H-bonds constitute a separate class that, owing to their elusive characterization, has remained a point of contention over the past several decades. Using femtosecond two-dimensional infrared spectroscopy in conjunction with quantum chemical calculations, Dereka et al. demonstrate a powerful way to investigate the nature of short H-bonding (see the Perspective by Bonn and Hunger). Their quantitative characterization of multiple coupled motions in the model system of bifluoride anion [F-H-F] in aqueous solution reveals several distinctive features of a crossover from conventional to short, strong H-bonding.

Science, this issue p. 160 see also p. 123


Hydrogen bonds (H-bonds) can be interpreted as a classical electrostatic interaction or as a covalent chemical bond if the interaction is strong enough. As a result, short strong H-bonds exist at an intersection between qualitatively different bonding descriptions, with few experimental methods to understand this dichotomy. The [F-H-F] ion represents a bare short H-bond, whose distinctive vibrational potential in water is revealed with femtosecond two-dimensional infrared spectroscopy. It shows the superharmonic behavior of the proton motion, which is strongly coupled to the donor-acceptor stretching and disappears on H-bond bending. In combination with high-level quantum-chemical calculations, we demonstrate a distinct crossover in spectroscopic properties from conventional to short strong H-bonds, which identify where hydrogen bonding ends and chemical bonding begins.

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