Structural Characterization of Protonated Water Clusters Confined in HZSM-5 Zeolites

J Am Chem Soc. 2021 Jul 14;143(27):10203-10213. doi: 10.1021/jacs.1c03205. Epub 2021 Jul 1.


A molecular description of the structure and behavior of water confined in aluminosilicate zeolite pores is a crucial component for understanding zeolite acid chemistry under hydrous conditions. In this study, we use a combination of ultrafast two-dimensional infrared (2D IR) spectroscopy and ab initio molecular dynamics (AIMD) to study H2O confined in the pores of highly hydrated zeolite HZSM-5 (∼13 and ∼6 equivalents of H2O per Al atom). The 2D IR spectrum reveals correlations between the vibrations of both terminal and H-bonded O-H groups and the continuum absorption of the excess proton. These data are used to characterize the hydrogen-bonding network within the cluster by quantifying single-, double-, and non-hydrogen-bond donor water molecules. These results are found to be in good agreement with the statistics calculated from an AIMD simulation of an H+(H2O)8 cluster in HZSM-5. Furthermore, IR spectral assignments to local O-H environments are validated with DFT calculations on clusters drawn from AIMD simulations. The simulations reveal that the excess charge is detached from the zeolite and resides near the more highly coordinated water molecules in the cluster. When they are taken together, these results unambiguously assign the complex IR spectrum of highly hydrated HZSM-5, providing quantitative information on the molecular environments and hydrogen-bonding topology of protonated water clusters under extreme confinement.