The pronounced ability of water to form a hyperdense hydrogen (H)-bond network among itself is at the heart of its exceptional properties. Due to the unique H-bonding capability and amphoteric nature, water is not only a passive medium, but also behaves as an active participant in many chemical and biological reactions. Here, we reveal the catalytic role of a short water wire, composed of two (or three) water molecules, in model aqueous acid-base reactions synthesizing 7-hydroxyquinoline derivatives. Utilizing femtosecond-resolved fluorescence spectroscopy, we tracked the trajectories of excited-state proton transfer and discovered that proton hopping along the water wire accomplishes the reaction more efficiently compared to the transfer occurring with bulk water clusters. Our finding suggests that the directionality of the proton movements along the charge-gradient H-bond network may be a key element for long-distance proton translocation in biological systems, as the H-bond networks wiring acidic and basic sites distal to each other can provide a shortcut for a proton in searching a global minimum on a complex energy landscape to its destination.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Physics and Astronomy(all)
- Physical and Theoretical Chemistry