Ordered Solvents and Ionic Liquids Can Be Harnessed for Electrostatic Catalysis

Longkun Xu, Ekaterina I. Izgorodina, Michelle L. Coote

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Citations (Scopus)


Herein, we employ classical molecular dynamics simulations using the Drude oscillator-based polarizable force field, quantum chemical calculations, and ONIOM multiscale calculations to study (a) how an external field orders the solvent environment in a chemical reaction and then (b) whether in the absence of this same applied field the ordered solvent environment alone can electrostatically catalyze a chemical reaction when compared with the corresponding disordered solvent. Our results show that a 0.2 V/Å external electric field, which is below the threshold for bond breaking of solvent molecules, leads to significant ordering of bulk methanol solvent and the ionic liquid [EMIM][BF4]. Importantly, in the absence of this same field, the ordered solvent lowers the activation energy of the hydrogen-transfer reaction of o-alkylphenyl ketones in excess of 20 kcal/mol when the solvent is methanol and by over 30 kcal/mol for [EMIM][BF4]. Even a 0.1 V/Å external field has effects of ca. 10 and 20 kcal/mol, respectively. This work suggests a possible strategy for scaling electrostatic catalysis by applying a pulsed external field to the reaction medium to maintain solvent ordering while allowing the reaction to proceed largely in the absence of an external field.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)12826-12833
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of The American Chemical Society
Issue number29
Publication statusPublished - 22 Jul 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • Solvents
  • Ionic Liquids
  • Electrostatic Catalysis


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