Absolute pKa Determinations for Substituted Phenols

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Journal of the American Chemical Society



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The CBS-QB3 method was used to calculate the gas-phase free energy difference between 20 phenols and their respective anions, and the CPCM continuum solvation method was applied to calculate the free energy differences of solvation for the phenols and their anions. The CPCM solvation calculations were performed on both gas-phase and solvent-phase optimized structures. Absolute pKa calculations with solvated phase optimized structures for the CPCM calculations yielded standard deviations and root-mean-square errors of less than 0.4 pKa unit. This study is the most accurate absolute determination of the pKa values of phenols, and is among the most accurate of any such calculations for any group of compounds. The ability to make accurate predictions of pKa values using a coherent, well-defined approach, without external approximations or fitting to experimental data, is of general importance to the chemical community. The solvated phase optimized structures of the anions are absolutely critical to obtain this level of accuracy, and yield a more realistic charge separation between the negatively charged oxygen and the ring system of the phenoxide anions.

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