The use of ionic liquids as a reaction medium for chemical reactions has dramatically increased in recent years due in large part to the numerous reported advances in catalysis and organic synthesis. In some extreme cases, ionic liquids have been shown to induce mechanistic changes relative to conventional solvents. Despite the large interest in the solvents, a clear understanding of the molecular factors behind their chemical impact is largely unknown. This feature article reviews our efforts developing and applying mixed quantum and molecular mechanical (QM/MM) methodology to elucidate the microscopic details of how these solvents operate to enhance rates and alter mechanisms for industrially and academically important reactions, e.g., Diels-Alder, Kemp eliminations, nucleophilic aromatic substitutions, and β-eliminations. Explicit solvent representation provided the medium dependence of the activation barriers and atomic-level characterization of the solute-solvent interactions responsible for the experimentally observed "ionic liquid effects". Technical advances are also discussed, including a linear-scaling pairwise electrostatic interaction alternative to Ewald sums, an efficient polynomial fitting method for modeling proton transfers, and the development of a custom ionic liquid OPLS-AA force field. (Figure Presented).
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Physical and Theoretical Chemistry