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Report No.
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Understanding competition of polyalcohol dehydration reactions in hot water

Chang, Y. L.*; Sasaki, Takehiko*; Ribas-Ari$~n$o, J.*; Machida, Masahiko  ; Shiga, Motoyuki   

Dehydration of biomass-derived polyalcohols has recently drawn attention in green chemistry as a prototype of selective reactions controllable in hot water or hot carbonated water, without any use of organic solvents or metal catalysts. Here, we report a free-energy analysis based on first-principles metadynamics and blue-moon ensemble simulations to understand the mechanism of competing intramolecular dehydration reactions of 1,2,5-pentanetriol in hot acidic water. The simulations consistently predict that the most dominant mechanism is the proton-assisted S$$_{rm N}$$2 process, where the protonation of the hydroxyl group by water and the C-O bond breaking and formation occur in a single step. The detailed mechanism found from the simulations shows how the reaction paths are selective in hot water and why the reaction rates are accelerated in acidic environments, thus giving a clear explanation of experimental findings for a broad class of competing dehydration processes of polyalcohols.

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