Theoretical Prediction of Electronically Excited States and Vibrational Frequencies of Interstellar and Planetary Radicals, Anions, and Cations

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Virginia Tech

In the search for molecular species in the interstellar medium and extraterrestrial planetary atmospheres, theoretical methods continue to be an invaluable tool to astronomically minded chemists. Using state-of-the art methods, this doctoral work characterizes the electronically excited states of interstellar radicals, cations, and even rare anions and also predicts the gas phase fundamental vibrational frequencies of the cis and trans-HOCO radicals, as well as the cis-HOCO anion.

First, open-shell coupled cluster methods of singles and doubles (CCSD) and singles and doubles with triples-inclusion (CC3) are tested on the C₂H and C₄H radicals. The significant double-excitation character, as well as the quartet multiplicity of some states yields inaccurate excitation energies and large spin contamination with CCSD. CC3 somewhat improves this for select states, but discrepancies between CC and multireference results for certain states exist and likely arise from the lack of spin adaptation in conventional spin-orbital CC. Next, coupled-cluster methods predict the presence of an excited state of the closed-shell allyl cation and its related H₂CCCHCH₂⁺ cousin at 443 nm near an unidentified laboratory peak at 442.9 nm which is also close to one of the largest unattributed interstellar absorption features. Additionally, the dipole moments, electron binding energies, and excited states of neutral radicals and corresponding closed-shell anions of interstellar interest are also computed. These are calibrated against experimental data for CH₂CN⁻ and CH₂CHO⁻. Since coupled cluster theory closely reproduces the known experimental data, dipole-bound excited states for eight previously unknown anions are predicted: CH2SiN⁻ , SiH₂CN⁻, CH₂SiHO⁻, SiN⁻, CCOH⁻, HCCO⁻, SiCCN⁻, and SiNC⁻. In addition, we predict the existence of one rare valence-bound excited state of CH₂SiN⁻ and also SiCCN⁻ as well as even rarer two valence-bound states of CCSiN⁻.

Lastly, the reaction of CO + OH and its transient potential intermediate, the HOCO radical, may be responsible for the regeneration of CO₂ in the Martian atmosphere, but past spectroscopic observations have not produced a full gas-phase set of the fundamental vibrational frequencies of the HOCO radical. Using established, highly-accurate quantum chemical coupled cluster tech- niques and quartic force fields, all six fundamental vibrational frequencies for 1 ²A′ cis and trans-HOCO and 1 ¹A′ cis-HOCO⁻ are computed in the gas phase.

anions, cations, radicals, quartic force fields, dipole-bound states, astrochemistry, coupled cluster theory, theoretical chemistry