Calculation of Isotope Effects from First Principles

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Various means of calculating the effect of changing the mass of a given atom upon a chemical process are reviewed. Of particular interest is the deuterium isotope effect comparing the normal protium nucleus with its heavier deuterium congener. The replacement of the bridging protium in a neutral hydrogen bond such as the water dimer by a deuterium strengthens the interaction by a small amount via effects upon the vibrational energy. In an ionic H-bond such as the protonated water dimer, on the other hand, the reverse trend is observed in that replacement of the bridging protium by dimer weakens the interaction. In addition to the stability of a given complex, the rate at which a proton transfers from one group to another is likewise affected by deuterium substitution, viz. kinetic isotope effects (KIEs). The KIE is enlarged as the temperature drops, particularly so if the calculation of KIE includes proton tunneling. The KIE is also sensitive to any angular distortions or stretches present in the H-bond of interest. KIEs can be computed either by the standard transition state theory which is derived via only two points on the potential energy surface, or by more complete formalisms which take account of larger swaths of the surface. While more time intensive, the latter can also be applied to provide insights important in interpretation of experimental data.

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