Molecular Dynamics Simulations of Aldol Condensation Catalyzed by Alkylamine-Functionalized Crystalline Silica Surfaces

KC Kim and EG Moschetta and CW Jones and SS Jang, JOURNAL OF THE AMERICAN CHEMICAL SOCIETY, 138, 7664-7672 (2016).

DOI: 10.1021/jacs.6b03309

Molecular dynamics simulations are performed to investigate the cooperatively catalyzed aldol condensation between acetone and 4-nitrobenzaldehyde on alkylamine (or alkylenamine)-grafted silica surfaces, focusing on the mechanism of the catalytic activation of the acetone and 4-nitrobenzaldehyde by the acidic surface silanols followed by the nucleophilic attack of the basic amine functional group toward the activated reactant. From the analysis of the correlations between the catalytically active acid base sites and reactants, it is concluded that the catalytic cooperativity of the acid base pair can be affected by two factors: (1) the competition between the silanol and the amine (or enamine) to form a hydrogen bond with a reactant and (2) the flexibility of the alkylamine (or alkylenamine) backbone. Increasing the flexibility of the alkylamine facilitates the nucleophilic attack of the amine on the reactants. From the molecular dynamics simulations, it is found that C3 propylamine and C4 butylamine linkers exhibit the highest probability of reaction, which is consistent with the experimental observation that the activity of the aldol reaction on mesoporous silica depends on the length of alkylamine grafted on the silica surface. This simulation work serves as a pioneering study demonstrating how the molecular simulation approach can be successfully employed to investigate the cooperative catalytic activity of such bifunctional acid base catalysts.

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