How much do van der Waals dispersion forces contribute to molecular recognition in solution?

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

The emergent properties that arise from self-assembly and molecular recognition phenomena are a direct consequence of non-covalent interactions. Gas-phase measurements and computational methods point to the dominance of dispersion forces in molecular association, but solvent effects complicate the unambiguous quantification of these forces in solution. Here, we have used synthetic molecular balances to measure interactions between apolar alkyl chains in 31 organic, fluorous and aqueous solvent environments. The experimental interaction energies are an order of magnitude smaller than estimates of dispersion forces between alkyl chains that have been derived from vaporization enthalpies and dispersioncorrected calculations. Instead, it was found that cohesive solvent–solvent interactions are the major driving force behind apolar association in solution. The results suggest that theoretical models that implicate important roles for dispersion forces in molecular recognition events should be interpreted with caution in solvent-accessible systems.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages5
JournalNature Chemistry
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2013

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