Origin of molecular conformational stability: perspectives from molecular orbital interactions and density functional reactivity theory.

Research paper by Shubin S Liu, Cynthia K CK Schauer

Indexed on: 11 Feb '15Published on: 11 Feb '15Published in: The Journal of chemical physics


To have a quantitative understanding about the origin of conformation stability for molecular systems is still an unaccomplished task. Frontier orbital interactions from molecular orbital theory and energy partition schemes from density functional reactivity theory are the two approaches available in the literature that can be used for this purpose. In this work, we compare the performance of these approaches for a total of 48 simple molecules. We also conduct studies to flexibly bend bond angles for water, carbon dioxide, borane, and ammonia molecules to obtain energy profiles for these systems over a wide range of conformations. We find that results from molecular orbital interactions using frontier occupied orbitals such as the highest occupied molecular orbital and its neighbors are only qualitatively, at most semi-qualitatively, trustworthy. To obtain quantitative insights into relative stability of different conformations, the energy partition approach from density functional reactivity theory is much more reliable. We also find that the electrostatic interaction is the dominant descriptor for conformational stability, and steric and quantum effects are smaller in contribution but their contributions are indispensable. Stable molecular conformations prefer to have a strong electrostatic interaction, small molecular size, and large exchange-correlation effect. This work should shed new light towards establishing a general theoretical framework for molecular stability.