Rovibronic signatures of molecular aggregation in the gas phase: subtle homochirality trends in the dimer, trimer and tetramer of benzyl alcohol†
Molecular aggregation is of paramount importance in many chemical processes, including those in living beings. Thus, characterization of the intermolecular interactions is an important step in its understanding. We describe here the aggregation of benzyl alcohol at the molecular level, a process governed by a delicate equilibrium between OH⋯O and OH⋯π hydrogen bonds and dispersive interactions. Using microwave, FTIR, Raman and mass-resolved double-resonance IR/UV spectroscopic techniques, we explored the cluster growth up to the tetramer and found a complex landscape, partly due to the appearance of multiple stereoisomers of very similar stability. Interestingly, a consistently homochiral synchronization of transiently chiral monomer conformers was observed during cluster growth to converge in the tetramer, where the fully homochiral species dominates the potential energy surface. The data on the aggregation of benzyl alcohol also constitute an excellent playground to fine-tune the parameters of the most advanced functionals.