Low-temperature, low-pressure studies of clathrate hydrates (CHs) have revealed that small ether and other proton-acceptor guests greatly enhance rates of clathrate hydrate nucleation and growth; rapid formation and transformations are enabled at temperatures as low as 110 K, and cool moist vapors containing small ether molecules convert to mixed-gas CHs on a subsecond time scale. More recently, FTIR spectroscopic studies of the tetrahydrofuran (THF)-HCN double clathrate hydrate revealed a sizable frequency shift accompanied by a four-fold intensification of the C-N stretch-mode absorption of the small cage HCN, behavior that is enhanced by cooling and which correlates precisely with similar significant changes of the ether C-O/C-C stretch modes. These temperature-dependent correlated changes in the infrared spectra have been attributed to equilibrated extensive hydrogen bonding of neighboring large- and small-cage guest molecules with water molecules of the intervening wall. An ether guest functions as a proton acceptor, particularly so when complemented by the action of a proton-donor (HCN)/electron-acceptor (SO(2)) small-cage guest. Because guest molecules of the classic clathrate hydrates do not participate in hydrogen bonds with the host water, this H-bonding of guests has been labeled "nonclassical". The present study has been enriched by comparing observed FTIR spectra with high-level molecular orbital computational results for guests and hydrogen-bonded guest-water dimers. Vibrational frequency shifts, from heterodimerization of ethers and water, correlate well with the corresponding observed classical to nonclassical shifts. The new spectroscopic data reveal that the nonclassical structures can contribute at observable levels to CH infrared spectra for a remarkable range of temperatures and choice of guest molecules. By the choice of guest molecules, it is now possible to select the abundance levels of nonclassical configurations, ranging from ∼0 to 100%, for a given temperature. This ability is expected to hasten understanding of the role of guest-induced nonclassical structures in the acceleration or inhibition of the rates of CH formation and transformation.
© 2011 American Chemical Society