Reaction Mechanism for Direct Proton Transfer from Carbonic Acid to a Strong Base in Aqueous Solution I: Acid and Base Coordinate and Charge Dynamics Academic Article uri icon


  • Protonation by carbonic acid H2CO3 of the strong base methylamine CH3NH2 in a neutral contact pair in aqueous solution is followed via Car-Parrinello (CP) molecular dynamics (MD) simulations. Proton transfer (PT) occurs to form an aqueous solvent-stabilized contact ion pair within 100 fs, a fast timescale associated with the compression of the acid-base hydrogen-bond (H-bond), a key reaction coordinate. This rapid barrierless PT is consistent with the carbonic acid-protonated base pKa difference that considerably favors the PT, and supports the view of intact carbonic acid as potentially important proton donor in assorted biological and environmental contexts. The charge redistribution within the H-bonded complex during PT supports a Mulliken picture of charge transfer from the nitrogen base to carbonic acid without altering the transferring hydrogen’s charge from approximately midway between that of a hydrogen atom and that of a proton.

publication date

  • January 1, 2016