Accepted in Chemical Physics Letters. What began as a reasonably straightforward inelastic neutron scattering (INS) assignment was expanded upon reviewer request to include an analysis of the potential for in-cell nicotinic acid (or niacin, depending on who you ask. Not to be confused with this Niacin, which would be another post altogether) prototropic tautomerization (technically, one might consider this just proton migration along the chain of the nicotinic acid molecules in the solid-state, which might just be more supported as, providing the punch line early, proton migration does not seem to occur in this system), a point that was mentioned in the paper as a possibility within the crystal cell but not originally examined as part of the spectral assignment. In the crystal cell picture shown below, tautomerization would result in proton H5 migrating to N', yielding a chain (if it propagated down the entire one-dimensional chain of nicotinic acid molecules in the solid-state) of zwitterions (molecules with both positive and negative charges on the covalent framework). Anyone with experience in the solid-state study of amino acids knows that zwitterions are not only stable species in the solid-state, but they can also the dominant species in the solid-state, as ionic interactions and the dipole alignment that results from the alignment of, in this case, zwitterions, can yield greater stability than the neutral species, where only hydrogen bonding and dispersions forces occur in the crystal packing arrangement.
The inelastic neutron scattering assignment by solid-state density functional theory (DFT) strongly supports that, at the 25 K temperature of the neutron experiment, the crystal cell is of the neutral, non-zwitterionic form (as shown below, which labels the possible arrangements of hydrogens in the Z=4 crystal cell). Furthermore, despite the existence of several potentially stable proton arrangements in the crystal cell (the three additional forms shown below), the nicotinic acid crystal cell seems to prefer the neutral form even through room temperature. Fortunately, previous studies using other spectroscopic methods seem to agree. As has been the case for the vast majority of all of the previous INS studies, the solid-state DFT calculations were performed with DMol3 and the INS simulated spectra generated with Dr. A. J. Ramirez-Cuesta's most excellent aClimax program.
As is often the case when a competent reviewer serves you a critical analysis of your submitted work, the final result is all the better for it.
Matthew R. Hudson, Damian G. Allis, and Bruce S. Hudson
Keywords: nicotinic acid, niacin, vitamin B3, inelastic neutron scattering spectroscopy, solid-state density functional theory
Abstract: The 25 K inelastic neutron scattering (INS) spectrum of nicotinic acid has been measured and assigned by solid-state density functional theory (DFT). Vibrational mode energies involving the carboxylic acid proton are found to be significantly altered due to intermolecular hydrogen-bonding. There is good overall agreement between experiment and simulation in all regions of the spectrum, with identified deviations considered in detail by spectral region: phonon (25 – 300 cm-1), molecular (300 – 1600 cm-1), and high-frequency (>2000 cm-1). The relative energies, geometries, and vibrational spectra associated with hypothesized tautomerization in the solid-state have also been investigated.