Parallel proton transfer pathways in aqueous acid-base reactions
We study the mechanism of proton transfer (PT) between the photoacid 8-hydroxy-1,3, 6-pyrenetrisulfonic acid (HPTS) and the base chloroacetate in aqueous solution. We investigate both proton and deuteron transfer reactions in solutions with base concentrations ranging from 0.25M to 4M. Using femtosecond midinfrared spectroscopy, we probe the vibrational responses of HPTS, its conjugate photobase, the hydrated proton/deuteron, and chloroacetate. The measurement of these four resonances allows us to follow the sequence of proton departure from the acid, its uptake by the water solvent, and its arrival at the base. In recent studies it was shown that proton transfer to carboxylate bases proceeds via Grotthuss conduction through a water wire connecting the acid and the base [Mohammed et al., Science 310, 83 (2005);Agnew. Chem. Int. Ed. 46, 1458 (2007);Siwick and Bakker, J. Am. Chem. Soc. 129, 13412 (2007); J. Phys. Chem. B 112, 378 (2008)]. Here we show that, for the weaker base chloroacetate, an alternative channel for proton transfer arises. In this channel the proton is first transferred to the water solvent and only later taken up from the water by the base. We study the base concentration dependence of the two competing channels.