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Proton Transfer from a Photoacid to a Water Wire: First Principles Simulations and Fast Fluorescence Spectroscopy

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posted on 2021-11-07, 16:29 authored by Alice R. Walker, Boning Wu, Jan Meisner, Michael D. Fayer, Todd J. Martínez
Proton transfer reactions are ubiquitous in chemistry, especially in aqueous solutions. We investigate photoinduced proton transfer between the photoacid 8-hydroxypyrene-1,3,6-trisulfonate (HPTS) and water using fast fluorescence spectroscopy and ab initio molecular dynamics simulations. Photoexcitation causes rapid proton release from the HPTS hydroxyl. Previous experiments on HPTS/water described the progress from photoexcitation to proton diffusion using kinetic equations with two time constants. The shortest time constant has been interpreted as protonated and photoexcited HPTS evolving into an “associated” state, where the proton is “shared” between the HPTS hydroxyl and an originally hydrogen bonded water. The longer time constant has been interpreted as indicating evolution to a “solvent separated” state where the shared proton undergoes long distance diffusion. In this work, we refine the previous experimental results using very pure HPTS. We then use excited state ab initio molecular dynamics to elucidate the detailed molecular mechanism of aqueous excited state proton transfer in HPTS. We find that the initial excitation results in rapid rearrangement of water, forming a strong hydrogen bonded network (a “water wire”) around HPTS. HPTS then deprotonates in ≤3 ps, resulting in a proton that migrates back and forth along the wire before localizing on a single water molecule. We find a near linear relationship between the emission wavelength and proton-HPTS distance over the simulated time scale, suggesting that the emission wavelength can be used as a ruler for the proton distance. Our simulations reveal that the “associated” state corresponds to a water wire with a mobile proton and that the diffusion of the proton away from this water wire (to a generalized “solvent-separated” state) corresponds to the longest experimental time constant.