Photoelectron spectroscopy and theoretical studies of anion-π interactions: binding strength and anion specificity.

Research paper by Jian J Zhang, Bin B Zhou, Zhen-Rong ZR Sun, Xue-Bin XB Wang

Indexed on: 18 Dec '14Published on: 18 Dec '14Published in: Physical Chemistry Chemical Physics


Proposed in theory and then their existence confirmed, anion-π interactions have been recognized as new and important non-covalent binding forces. Despite extensive theoretical studies, numerous crystal structural identifications, and a plethora of solution phase investigations, anion-π interaction strengths that are free from complications of condensed-phase environments have not been directly measured in the gas phase. Herein we present a joint photoelectron spectroscopic and theoretical study on this subject, in which tetraoxacalix[2]arene[2]triazine 1, an electron-deficient and cavity self-tunable macrocyclic, was used as a charge-neutral molecular host to probe its interactions with a series of anions with distinctly different shapes and charge states (spherical halides Cl(-), Br(-), I(-), linear thiocyanate SCN(-), trigonal planar nitrate NO3(-), pyramidic iodate IO3(-), and tetrahedral sulfate SO4(2-)). The binding energies of the resultant gaseous 1 : 1 complexes (1·Cl(-), 1·Br(-), 1·I(-), 1·SCN(-), 1·NO3(-), 1·IO3(-) and 1·SO4(2-)) were directly measured experimentally, exhibiting substantial non-covalent interactions with pronounced anion-specific effects. The binding strengths of Cl(-), NO3(-), IO3(-) with 1 are found to be strongest among all singly charged anions, amounting to ca. 30 kcal mol(-1), but only about 40% of that between 1 and SO4(2-). Quantum chemical calculations reveal that all the anions reside in the center of the cavity of 1 with an anion-π binding motif in the complexes' optimized structures, where 1 is seen to be able to self-regulate its cavity structure to accommodate anions of different geometries and three-dimensional shapes. Electron density surface and charge distribution analyses further support anion-π binding formation. The calculated binding energies of the anions and 1 nicely reproduce the experimentally estimated electron binding energy increase. This work illustrates that size-selective photoelectron spectroscopy combined with theoretical calculations represents a powerful technique to probe anion-π interactions and has potential to provide quantitative guest-host molecular binding strengths and unravel fundamental insights in specific anion recognitions.