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Title: BF3–Catalyzed Diels–Alder Reaction between Butadiene and Methyl Acrylate in Aqueous Solution—An URVA and Local Vibrational Mode Study
In this study we investigate the Diels–Alder reaction between methyl acrylate and butadiene, which is catalyzed by BF3 Lewis acid in explicit water solution, using URVA and Local Mode Analysis as major tools complemented with NBO, electron density and ring puckering analyses. We considered four different starting orientations of methyl acrylate and butadiene, which led to 16 DA reactions in total. In order to isolate the catalytic effects of the BF3 catalyst and those of the water environment and exploring how these effects are synchronized, we systematically compared the non-catalyzed reaction in gas phase and aqueous solution with the catalyzed reaction in gas phase and aqueous solution. Gas phase studies were performed at the B3LYP/6-311+G(2d,p) level of theory and studies in aqueous solution were performed utilizing a QM/MM approach at the B3LYP/6-311+G(2d,p)/AMBER level of theory. The URVA results revealed reaction path curvature profiles with an overall similar pattern for all 16 reactions showing the same sequence of CC single bond formation for all of them. In contrast to the parent DA reaction with symmetric substrates causing a synchronous bond formation process, here, first the new CC single bond on the CH2 side of methyl acrylate is formed followed by the more » CC bond at the ester side. As for the parent DA reaction, both bond formation events occur after the TS, i.e., they do not contribute to the energy barrier. What determines the barrier is the preparation process for CC bond formation, including the approach diene and dienophile, CC bond length changes and, in particular, rehybridization of the carbon atoms involved in the formation of the cyclohexene ring. This process is modified by both the BF3 catalyst and the water environment, where both work in a hand-in-hand fashion leading to the lowest energy barrier of 9.06 kcal/mol found for the catalyzed reaction R1 in aqueous solution compared to the highest energy barrier of 20.68 kcal/mol found for the non-catalyzed reaction R1 in the gas phase. The major effect of the BF3 catalyst is the increased mutual polarization and the increased charge transfer between methyl acrylate and butadiene, facilitating the approach of diene and dienophile and the pyramidalization of the CC atoms involved in the ring formation, which leads to a lowering of the activation energy. The catalytic effect of water solution is threefold. The polar environment leads also to increased polarization and charge transfer between the reacting species, similar as in the case of the BF3 catalyst, although to a smaller extend. More important is the formation of hydrogen bonds with the reaction complex, which are stronger for the TS than for the reactant, thus stabilizing the TS which leads to a further reduction of the activation energy. As shown by the ring puckering analysis, the third effect of water is space confinement of the reacting partners, conserving the boat form of the six-member ring from the entrance to the exit reaction channel. In summary, URVA combined with LMA has led to a clearer picture on how both BF3 catalyst and aqueous environment in a synchronized effort lower the reaction barrier. These new insights will serve to further fine-tune the DA reaction of methyl acrylate and butadiene and DA reactions in general. « less
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National Science Foundation
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