We study the molecular properties of aqueous acetic acid and formic acid solutions with heterodyne-detected vibrational sum-frequency generation spectroscopy (HD-VSFG). For acid concentrations up to ∼5 M, we observe a strong increase of the responses of the acid hydroxyl and carbonyl stretch vibrations with increasing acid concentration due to an increase of the surface coverage by the acid molecules. At acid concentrations >5 M we observe first a saturation of these responses and then a decrease. For pure carboxylic acids we even observe a change of sign of the Im[χ(2)] response of the carbonyl vibration. The decrease of the response of the hydroxyl vibration and the decrease and sign change of the response of the carbonyl vibration indicate the formation of cyclic dimers, which only show a quadrupolar bulk response in the HD-VSFG spectrum because of their antiparallel conformation. We also find evidence for the presence of a quadrupolar response of the CH vibrations of the acid molecules.

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The Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO) , European Research Council (ERC) , European Union Horizon 2020
J. Phys. Chem. B
Ultrafast Spectroscopy

Moll, C.J, Versluis, J, & Bakker, H.J. (2022). Bulk Response of Carboxylic Acid Solutions Observed with Surface Sum-Frequency Generation Spectroscopy. J. Phys. Chem. B, 126(1), 270–277. doi:10.1021/acs.jpcb.1c09051