Superbasicity of a Bis-guanidino Compound with a Flexible Linker: A Theoretical and Experimental Study

The bis-guanidino compound H2C{hpp}2 (I; hppH = 1,3,4,6,7,8-hexahydro-2H-pyrimido[1,2-a]pyrimidine) has been converted to the monocation [I-H]+ and isolated as the chloride and tetraphenylborate salts. Solution-state spectroscopic data do not differentiate the protonated guanidinium from the neutral guanidino group but suggest intramolecular “NH···N” hydrogen bonding to form an eight-membered C3N4H heterocycle. Solid-state CPMAS 15N NMR spectroscopy confirms protonation at one of the imine nitrogens, although line broadening is consistent with solid-state proton transfer between guanidine functionalities. X-ray diffraction data have been recorded over the temperature range 50−273 K. Examination of the carbon−nitrogen bond lengths suggests a degree of “partial protonation” of the neutral guanidino group at higher temperatures, with greater localization of the proton at one nitrogen position as the temperature is lowered. Difference electron density maps generated from high-resolution X-ray diffraction studies at 110 K give the first direct experimental evidence for proton transfer in a poly(guanidino) system. Computational analysis of I and its conjugate acid [I-H]+ indicate strong cationic resonance stabilization of the guanidinium group, with the nonprotonated group also stabilized, albeit to a lesser extent. The maximum barrier to proton transfer calculated using the Boese−Martin for kinetics method was 2.8 kcal mol−1, with hydrogen-bond compression evident in the transition state; addition of zero-point vibrational energy values leads to the conclusion that the proton transfer is barrierless, implying that the proton shuttles freely between the two nitrogen atoms. Calculations determining the gas-phase proton affinity and the pKa in acetonitrile both indicate that compound I should behave as a superbase. This has been confirmed by spectrophotometric titrations in MeCN using polyphosphazene references, which give an average pKa of 28.98 ± 0.05. Triadic analysis indicates that the dominant term causing the high basicity is the relaxation energy.