The interpretation of experimental electron momentum distributions (EMDs) of ethanol, one of the simplest molecules having conformers, has confused researchers for years. High-level calculations of Dyson orbital EMDs by thermally averaging the gauche and trans conformers as well as molecular dynamical simulations failed to quantitatively reproduce the experiments for some of the outer valence orbitals. In this work, the valence shell electron binding energy spectrum and EMDs of ethanol are revisited by the high-sensitivity electron momentum spectrometer employing symmetric noncoplanar geometry at an incident energy of 1200 eV plus binding energy, together with a detailed analysis of the influence of vibrational motions on the EMDs for the two conformers employing a harmonic analytical quantum mechanical (HAQM) approach by taking into account all of the vibrational modes. The significant discrepancies between theories and experiments in previous works have now been interpreted quantitatively, indicating that the vibrational effect plays a significant role in reproducing the experimental results, not only through the low-frequency OH and CH3 torsion modes but also through other high-frequency ones. Rational explanation of experimental momentum profiles provides solid evidence that the trans conformer is slightly more stable than the gauche conformer, in accordance with thermodynamic predictions and other experiments. The case of ethanol demonstrates the significance of considering vibrational effects when performing a conformational study on flexible molecules using electron momentum spectroscopy.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Physical and Theoretical Chemistry