Impact of proton transfer phenomena on the electronic structure of model Schiff bases: an AIM/NBO/ELF study.
Understanding of the electronic structure evolution due to a proton dynamics is a key issue in biochemistry and material science. This paper reports on density functional theory calculations of Schiff bases containing short, strong intramolecular hydrogen bonds where the bridged proton is located: (i) at the donor site, (ii) strongly delocalized, and (iii) at the acceptor site. The mobility of the bridged proton and its influence on the molecular structure and properties of the chosen Schiff base derivatives have been investigated on the basis of Atoms in Molecules, Natural Bond Orbitals, and Electron Localization Function theories. It has been observed that the extent of the bridged proton delocalization is strongly modified by the steric and inductive effects present in the studied compounds introduced by various substituents. It has been shown that: (i) potential energy profiles for the proton motion are extremely dependent on the substitution of the aromatic ring, (ii) the topology of the free electron pairs present at the donor/acceptor site, as well as their electron populations, are affected qualitatively by the bridged proton position, (iii) the distortion of the molecular structure due to the bridged proton dynamics includes the atomic charge fluctuations, which are in some cases non-monotonic, and (iv) topology of the ELF recognizes events of proton detachment from the donor and attachment to the acceptor. The quantitative and qualitative results shed light onto molecular consequences of the proton transfer phenomena.