The influence of a solvent environment on direct non-covalent interactions between two molecules: A symmetry-adapted perturbation theory study of polarization tuning of π-π interactions by water


Natural Sciences

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The Journal of Chemical Physics

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High-level quantum chemical computations have provided significant insight into the fundamental physical nature of non-covalent interactions. These studies have focused primarily on gas-phase computations of small van der Waals dimers; however, these interactions frequently take place in complex chemical environments, such as proteins, solutions, or solids. To better understand how the chemical environment affects non-covalent interactions, we have undertaken a quantum chemical study of π-π interactions in an aqueous solution, as exemplified by T-shaped benzene dimers surrounded by 28 or 50 explicit water molecules. We report interaction energies (IEs) using second-order Møller-Plesset perturbation theory, and we apply the intramolecular and functional-group partitioning extensions of symmetry-adapted perturbation theory (ISAPT and F-SAPT, respectively) to analyze how the solvent molecules tune the π-π interactions of the solute. For complexes containing neutral monomers, even 50 explicit waters (constituting a first and partial second solvation shell) change total SAPT IEs between the two solute molecules by only tenths of a kcal mol-1, while significant changes of up to 3 kcal mol-1 of the electrostatic component are seen for the cationic pyridinium-benzene dimer. This difference between charged and neutral solutes is attributed to large non-additive three-body interactions within solvated ion-containing complexes. Overall, except for charged solutes, our quantum computations indicate that nearby solvent molecules cause very little "tuning" of the direct solute-solute interactions. This indicates that differences in binding energies between the gas phase and solution phase are primarily indirect effects of the competition between solute-solute and solute-solvent interactions.