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Chemical Phenomena



Condensed Phase: The scientific study of the properties of matter, as in its solid and liquid phases, in which atoms or particles adhere to each other or are highly concentrated.

Isotropic: (of an object or substance) having a physical property which has the same value when measured in different directions. Often contrasted with

Exergonic vs Exothermic Exothemric relates to the heat transfer \(\Delta H\), while Exergonic refers to the overall enegy transfer \(\Delta G\) (which includes entropy)

Important condensed phases

  • Homogeneous liquid solutions are the most common condensed phase in chemistry (solvation)
  • Solids (particularly crystalline)
  • Surfaces - interfaces between phases
  • Liquid crystal solutions - solutions that have non-homogeneous properties - typically non isotropic
  • Supercritical fluids - taking a substance beyond it’s critical temperature
  • Membranes - seperate two other phases

Sometimes the boundaries between the condensed phase and the component of interest is not so clear.

e.g. hydrated metal ions.

Why is solvation important

Condensed-phase properties depend on the condensed-phase wavefunction. This may be very different from the gas phase properties.

For systems that interact within a condensed phase, the interaction also requires a partial desolvation step to be able to interact

The PES will likely be very different in and out of the condensed phased

E.g. 1. Solvatochromism of Dye \(\ce{E_T30}\:(S_1-S_0)\) (excited state 1 \(\to\) excited state 0)


Solvent Colour \(\lambda_{max}, nm\)
anisole yellow 769
acetone green 677
2-pentanol blue 608
ethanol violet 550
methanol red 515

E.g. 2. Enzyme-substrate binding

One way to approach this would be to use a thermodynamic cycle (since \(\Delta E\) is a state function). This is an example of desolvation used in molecular recognition


\[ \Delta G^\circ_{aq}=-(\Delta G^\circ_{aq}(E)+\Delta G^\circ_{aq}(S))+\Delta G^\circ_g+\Delta G^\circ_{aq}(E\cdot S) \]

Taking the first negative (\(-(\Delta G^\circ_{aq}(E)+\Delta G^\circ_{aq}(S))\))is the equivalent of desolvating the components


The solvated energy of a system will not be continuous over all point son the PES. Some solvated geometries will end up with lower minima relative to each other than their gas phase counterparts


E.g. 3. $S_N2$ reaction

This reaction is significantly stabilised by the solvent, since there are charged species involved. In the gas phase, there doesn’t even seem to be a definite transition structure


General reaction coordinate

In this particular figure, the primary points of the reaction trajectory are very similar, however the transition structure has moved along the PES (\(\ce{<->}\)) and the product has been significantly stabilised by the effect of the solvent. This particular representation would allow us to better calculate/plot the reaction free energy cycles involved.


Explicit and Implicit solvent modelling


  • Add in physical solvent molecules around the system of interest
  • This will likely make finding the reaction coordinate incredibly difficult, due to the sheer number of degrees of freedom involved in the solvent molecules


  1. Start by computing the gas phase reaction curve with one method
  2. Then compute the free energies of solvation at specific points of interest, using another method.

Equilibrium - Free energy of solvation

These properties are NOT explicitly observable properties of the solvent

\[ \Delta G_S^\circ = \Delta G_{ENP}+G^\circ_{CDS} \]


The dielectric is represented by (electrostatic):

  • \(E=\) electronic energy - The atomic charges pulling the solvent and solute together
  • \(N=\) nuclear repulsion - The proton-proton forces pushing the solvent and solute apart
  • \(P=\) solute-solvent polarisation - The ability for the solvent to orient itself and for the electrons to disperse around the molecules in reaction to electronic stimuli

Other solvent properties are represented by(non-electrostatic):

  • \(C=\) cavitation energy - The energy required to displace the solvent to form the cavity
  • \(D=\) dispersion forces - “The induced dipole-induced dipole favourable interaction, associated with electron correlation” - not electrostatic since it’s fundamental and the dipoles are non permanent
  • \(S=\) structural - concequences of solvating a molcule that could be favourable or unfavourable, e.g. H-bonding is favourable, non-polar molecules in a polar solvent, is unfavourable (reduces the water’s entropy, because the hydrogen bonding opportunities are lost)