Can semi-empirical models describe HCl dissociation in water?
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We discuss the failure of commonly used AM1 and PM3 semiempirical methods to correctly describe acid dissociation. We focus our analysis on HCl because of its physicochemical importance and its relevance in atmospheric chemistry. The structure of non-dissociated and dissociated HCl – (H2O) n clusters is accounted for. The very bad results obtained with PM3 (and also with AM1) are related to large errors in gas-phase proton affinity of water and gas-phase acidity of HCl. Indeed, estimation of pKa values shows that neither AM1 nor PM3 are able to predict HCl dissociation in liquid water since HCl is found to be a weaker acid than H3O+. We have proposed in previous works a modified PM3 approach (PM3-MAIS) adapted to intermolecular calculations. It is derived from PM3 by reparameterization of the core–core functions using ab initio data. Since parameters for H–Cl and O–Cl core–core interactions were not yet available, we have carried out the corresponding optimization. Application of the PM3-MAIS method to HCl dissociation in HCl–(H2O) n clusters leads to a huge improvement over PM3 results. Though the method predicts a slightly overestimated HCl acidity in water environment, the overall agreement with ab initio calculations is very satisfying and justifies efforts to develop new semiempirical methods.
KeywordsSemi-empirical Acid dissociation Proton
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