Rotational spectroscopy of the atmospheric photo-oxidation product o-toluic acid and its monohydrate†
o-Toluic acid, a photo-oxidation product in the atmosphere, and its monohydrate were characterized in the gas phase by pure rotational spectroscopy. High-resolution spectra were measured in the range of 5–14 Hz using a cavity-based molecular beam Fourier-transform microwave spectrometer. Possible conformers were identified computationally, at the MP2/6-311++G(2df,2pd) level of theory. For both species, one conformer was identified experimentally, and no methyl internal rotation splittings were observed, indicative of relatively high barriers to rotation. In the monomer, rocking of the carboxylic acid group is a large amplitude motion, characterized by a symmetrical double-well potential. This and other low-lying out-of-plane vibrations contribute to a significant (methyl top-corrected) inertial defect (−1.09 amu Å2). In the monohydrate, wagging of the free hydrogen atom of water is a second large amplitude motion, so the average structure is planar. As a result, no c-type transitions were observed. Water tunneling splittings were not observed, because the water rotation coordinate is characterized by an asymmetrical double-well potential. Since the minima are not degenerate, tunneling is precluded. Furthermore, a concerted tunneling path involving simultaneous rotation of the water moiety and rocking of the carboxylic acid group is precluded, because the hilltop along this coordinate is a virtual, rather than a real, saddle-point. Inter- and intramolecular non-covalent bonding is discussed in terms of the quantum theory of atoms in molecules. The percentage of o-toluic acid hydrated in the atmosphere is estimated to be about 0.1% using statistical thermodynamics.