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  1. Organic chromophores initiate much of daytime aqueous phase chemistry in the environment. Thus, studying the absorption spectra of commonly used organic photosensitizers is paramount to fully understand their relevance in environmental processes. In this work, we combined UV-Vis spectroscopy, 1 H-NMR spectroscopy, quantum chemical calculations, and molecular dynamics simulations to investigate the absorption spectra of 4-benzoyl benzoic acid (4BBA), a widely used photosensitizer and a common proxy of environmentally relevant chromophores. Solutions of 4BBA at different pH values show that protonated and deprotonated species have an effect on its absorbance spectra. Theoretical calculations of these species in water clusters provide physical and chemical insights into the spectra. Quantum chemical calculations were conducted to analyze the UV-Vis absorbance spectra of 4BBA species using various cluster sizes, such as C 6 H 5 COC 6 H 4 COOH·(H 2 O) n , where n = 8 for relatively small clusters and n = 30 for larger clusters. While relatively small clusters have been successfully used for smaller chromophores, our results indicate that simulations of protonated species of 4BBA require relatively larger clusters of n = 30. A comparison between the experimental and theoretical results shows good agreement in the pH-dependent spectral shift between the hydrated cluster model and the experimental data. Overall, the theoretical and empirical results indicate that the experimental optical spectra of aqueous phase 4BBA can be represented by the acid–base equilibrium of the keto-forms, with a spectroscopically measured p K a of 3.41 ± 0.04. The results summarized here contribute to a molecular-level understanding of solvated organic molecules through calculations restricted to cluster models, and thereby, broader insight into environmentally relevant chromophores. 
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  2. Previous studies have suggested that the photochemistry of nitroaromatics in organic solvents can vary significantly from the photochemistry in aqueous solutions. This work compares the photodegradation of 2-nitrophenol (2NP), 4-nitrophenol (4NP), 2,4-dinitrophenol (24DNP), and 2,4,6-trinitrophenol (246TNP) in 2-propanol and water to better understand the photochemical loss of nitrophenols in atmospheric organic particles and aqueous droplets. Polychromatic quantum yields were determined by monitoring the loss of absorbance of each nitrophenol with UV/vis spectroscopy in the presence of an acid (undissociated nitrophenol) or base (nitrophenolate). There was no orderly variation between loss rates in the organic and aqueous phases: 2NP and 4NP had similar yields in the two solvents. 246TNP was an outlier in these results as it dissociated in both acidified 2-propanol and water due to its exceptionally strong acidity. A notable result is that only for 24DNP was a dramatically increased reactivity found in 2-propanol compared to that in water. Time-dependent density functional theory calculations were carried out to characterize the excited state energies and absorption spectra with a conductor-like polarizable continuum model or explicit solvation by a few solvent molecules. Explicit solvent calculations suggest the enhanced reactivity of 24DNP in 2-propanol is due to the strong interaction between a 2-propanol molecule and an –NO 2 group in the excited state. For the other nitrophenols, the solvent effects on electronic structure were minimal. Overall, the observations in this work suggest that solvent effects on the electronic structure and condensed-phase photochemistry of nitrophenols are minimal, with the exception of 24DNP. 
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  3. We report vibrational spectra of the H 2 -tagged, cryogenically cooled X −  · HOCl (X = Cl, Br, and I) ion–molecule complexes and analyze the resulting band patterns with electronic structure calculations and an anharmonic theoretical treatment of nuclear motions on extended potential energy surfaces. The complexes are formed by “ligand exchange” reactions of X −  · (H 2 O) n clusters with HOCl molecules at low pressure (∼10 −2  mbar) in a radio frequency ion guide. The spectra generally feature many bands in addition to the fundamentals expected at the double harmonic level. These “extra bands” appear in patterns that are similar to those displayed by the X −  · HOD analogs, where they are assigned to excitations of nominally IR forbidden overtones and combination bands. The interactions driving these features include mechanical and electronic anharmonicities. Particularly intense bands are observed for the v = 0 → 2 transitions of the out-of-plane bending soft modes of the HOCl molecule relative to the ions. These involve displacements that act to break the strong H-bond to the ion, which give rise to large quadratic dependences of the electric dipoles (electronic anharmonicities) that drive the transition moments for the overtone bands. On the other hand, overtone bands arising from the intramolecular OH bending modes of HOCl are traced to mechanical anharmonic coupling with the v = 1 level of the OH stretch (Fermi resonances). These interactions are similar in strength to those reported earlier for the X −  · HOD complexes. 
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  4. null (Ed.)
    Water systems often contain complex macromolecular systems that absorb light. In marine environments, these light absorbing components are often at the air–water interface and can participate in the chemistry of the atmosphere in ways that are poorly understood. Understanding the photochemistry and photophysics of these systems represents a major challenge since their composition and structures are not unique. In this study, we present a successful microscopic model of this light absorbing macromolecular species termed “marine derived chromophoric dissolved organic matter” or “m-CDOM” in water. The approach taken involves molecular dynamics simulations in the ground state using on the fly Density Functional Tight-Binding (DFTB) electronic structure theory; Time Dependent DFTB (TD-DFTB) calculations of excited states, and experimental measurements of the optical absorption spectra in aqueous solution. The theoretical hydrated model shows key features seen in the experimental data for a collected m-CDOM sample. As will be discussed, insights from the model are: (i) the low-energy A-band (at 410 nm) is due to the carbon chains combined with the diol- and the oxy-groups present in the structure; (ii) the weak B-band (at 320–360 nm) appears due to the contribution of the ionized speciated form of m-CDOM; and (iii) the higher-energy C-band (at 280 nm) is due to the two fused ring system. Thus, this is a two-speciated formed model. Although a relatively simple system, these calculations represent an important step in understanding light absorbing compounds found in nature and the search for other microscopic models of related materials remains of major interest. 
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  5. null (Ed.)
  6. The absorption spectra of molecular organic chromophores in aqueous media are of considerable importance in environmental chemistry. In this work, the UV-vis spectra of benzoic acid (BA), the simplest aromatic carboxylic acid, in aqueous solutions at varying pH and in the presence of salts are measured experimentally. The solutions of different pH provide insights into the contributions from both the non-dissociated acid molecule and the deprotonated anionic species. The microscopic interpretation of these spectra is then provided by quantum chemical calculations for small cluster models of benzoic species (benzoic acid and benzoate anion) with water molecules. Calculations of the UV-vis absorbance spectra are then carried out for different clusters such as C 6 H 5 COOH·(H 2 O) n and C 6 H 5 COO − ·(H 2 O) n , where n = 0–8. The following main conclusions from these calculations and the comparison to experimental results can be made: (i) the small water cluster yields good quantitative agreement with observed solution experiments; (ii) the main peak position is found to be very similar at different levels of theory and is in excellent agreement with the experimental value, however, a weaker feature about 1 eV to lower energy (red shift) of the main peak is correctly reproduced only by using high level of theory, such as Algebraic Diagrammatic Construction (ADC); (iii) dissociation of the BA into ions is found to occur with a minimum of water molecules of n = 8; (iv) the deprotonation of BA has an influence on the computed spectrum and the energetics of the lowest energy electronic transitions; (v) the effect of the water on the spectra is much larger for the deprotonated species than for the non-dissociated acid. It was found that to reproduce experimental spectrum at pH 8.0, additional continuum representation for the extended solvent environment must be included in combination with explicit solvent molecules ( n ≥ 3); (vi) salts (NaCl and CaCl 2 ) have minimal effect on the absorption spectrum and; (vii) experimental results showed that B-band of neutral BA is not sensitive to the solvent effects whereas the effect of the water on the C-band is significant. The water effects blue-shift this band up to ∼0.2 eV. Overall, the results demonstrate the ability to further our understanding of the microscopic interpretation of the electronic structure and absorption spectra of BA in aqueous media through calculations restricted to small cluster models. 
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