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Use of Solution-Phase Vibrational Frequencies in Continuum Models for the Free Energy of Solvation

Ribeiro, R. F.; Marenich, A. V.; Cramer, C. J.; Truhlar, D. G.
J. Phys. Chem. B in press (doi:10.1021/jp205508z).

We find that vibrational contributions to a solute's free energy are in general insensitive to whether the solute vibrational frequencies are computed in the gas phase or in solution. In most cases the difference is smaller than the intrinsic error in solvation free energies associated with the continuum approximation to solvation modeling, although care must be taken to avoid spurious results associated with limitations in the quantum-mechanical harmonic-oscillator approximation for very low-frequency molecular vibrations. We compute solute vibrational partition functions in aqueous- and carbon-tetrachloride-solution and compare them to gas-phase molecular partition functions computed with the same level of theory and the same quasiharmonic approximation for the diverse and extensive set of molecules and ions included in the training set of the SMD continuum solvation model, and we find mean unsigned differences in vibrational contributions to the solute free energy of only about 0.2 kcal/mol. Based on these results and a review of the theory, we conclude, in contrast to previous work (Ho, J.; Klamt, H.; Coote, M. L. J. Phys. Chem. A 2010, 114, 13442), that using partition functions computed for molecules optimized in solution is a correct and useful approach for averaging over solute degrees of freedom when computing free energies of solutes in solution, and is moreover recommended for cases where liquid and gas-phase solute structures differ appreciably or when stationary points present in liquid solution do not exist in the gas phase, for which we provide some examples. When gas-phase and solution-phase geometries and frequencies are similar, the use of gas-phase geometries and frequencies is a useful approximation.