Benchmarking Continuum Solvent Models for Keto-Enol Tautomerizations

Billy W. McCann, Stuart McFarland, Orlando Acevedo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


Experimental free energies of tautomerization, ΔGT, were used to benchmark the gas-phase predictions of 17 different quantum mechanical methods and eight basis sets for seven keto-enol tautomer pairs dominated by their enolic form. The G4 method and M06/6-31+G(d,p) yielded the most accurate results, with mean absolute errors (MAE's) of 0.95 and 0.71 kcal/mol, respectively. Using these two theory levels, the solution-phase ΔGT values for 23 unique tautomer pairs composed of aliphatic ketones, β-dicarbonyls, and heterocycles were computed in multiple protic and aprotic solvents. The continuum solvation models, namely, polarizable continuum model (PCM), polarizable conductor calculation model (CPCM), and universal solvation model (SMD), gave relatively similar MAE's of ∼1.6-1.7 kcal/mol for G4 and ∼1.9-2.0 kcal/mol with M06/6-31+G(d,p). Partitioning the tautomer pairs into their respective molecular types, that is, aliphatic ketones, β-dicarbonyls, and heterocycles, and separating out the aqueous versus nonaqueous results finds G4/PCM utilizing the UA0 cavity to be the overall most accurate combination. Free energies of activation, ΔG, for the base-catalyzed keto-enol interconversion of 2-nitrocyclohexanone were also computed using six bases and five solvents. The M06/6-31+G(d,p) reproduced the ΔG with MAE's of 1.5 and 1.8 kcal/mol using CPCM and SMD, respectively, for all combinations of base and solvent. That specific enolization was previously proposed to proceed via a concerted mechanism in less polar solvents but shift to a stepwise mechanism in more polar solvents. However, the current calculations suggest that the stepwise mechanism operates in all solvents.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)8724-8733
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Physical Chemistry A
Issue number32
StatePublished - Jul 23 2015
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry


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