Hydration of the simplest α-keto acid: a rotational spectroscopic and ab initio study of the pyruvic acid–water complex†
Intermolecular interactions between pyruvic acid, the simplest α-keto acid, and water are important in bio- and atmospheric chemistry. In this context, the pure rotational spectrum of the pyruvic acid–water complex was measured from 7 to 15 GHz using a cavity-based Fourier-transform microwave spectrometer. In the detected isomer, water acts as a hydrogen bond donor and acceptor, bridging the acidic hydrogen and the keto oxygen. Both a- and b-type transitions were observed; however, c-type transitions were not observed, due to vibrational averaging of the effectively barrier-less wagging motion of the free hydrogen of the water subunit, which results in an effective ground state structure with a plane of symmetry. The mass distribution out of the ab-plane, corrected for the out-of-plane hydrogen atoms of the methyl group, confirms that the complex has a plane of symmetry. The observed transitions exhibit splittings due to internal rotations of the water subunit and the methyl group. The proposed internal rotation of water nominally breaks one hydrogen bond, so it is remarkable that the barrier was calculated to be as low as 5.2 kJ mol−1; however, a non-covalent interactions analysis indicates that water rotation has surprisingly little effect on the interactions between the water and pyruvic acid subunits. The barrier to methyl internal rotation was determined to be about 4.6 kJ mol−1 experimentally, significantly higher than that of the pyruvic acid monomer. In general, the structure and dynamics investigated here provide insights into the interactions between pyruvic acid and water that dictate the fate of pyruvic acid in aqueous aerosols and living cells.