Cyanamide as an Infrared Reporter: Comparison of Vibrational Properties between Nitriles Bonded to N and C Atoms

Giseong Lee, Dorota Kossowska, Joonhyung Lim, Soobin Kim, Hogyu Han, Kyungwon Kwak, Minhaeng Cho

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23 Citations (Scopus)


Infrared (IR) probes based on terminally blocked β-cyanamidoalanine (AlaNHCN) 1 and p-cyanamidophenylalanine (PheNHCN) 2 were synthesized, and the vibrational properties of their CN stretch modes were studied using Fourier transform infrared (FTIR) and femtosecond IR pump-probe spectroscopies in combination with quantum chemical calculations. From FTIR studies, it is found that the transition dipole strengths of the cyanamide (NHCN) group in 1 and 2 are much larger than those of the nitrile (CN) group but comparable to those of the isonitrile (NC) and azido (N3) groups in their previously studied analogs. The CN stretch frequencies in 1 and 2 are red-shifted from those in their nitrile analogs but more blue-shifted from the NC and N3 stretch frequencies in their isonitrile and azido analogs. The much larger transition dipole strength and the red-shifted frequency of the cyanamide relative to nitrile group originates from the n → π∗ interaction between the N atom's nonbonding (n) and CN group's antibonding (π∗) orbitals of the NHCN group. Unlike aliphatic cyanamide 1, aromatic cyanamide 2 shows a complicated line shape of the CN stretch spectra. Such a complicated line shape arises from the Fermi resonance between the CN stretch mode of the NHCN group and one of the overtones of the phenyl ring vibrations and can be substantially simplified by deuteration of the NHCN into NDCN group. From IR pump-probe experiments, the vibrational lifetimes of the CN stretch mode in 1 were determined to be 0.58 ± 0.04 ps in D2O and 0.89 ± 0.09 ps in H2O and those in 2 were determined to be 1.64 ± 0.13 ps in CH3OD/dimethyl sulfoxide and 0.30 ± 0.05 and 2.62 ± 0.26 ps in CH3OH. The short time component (0.30 ± 0.05 ps) observed for 2 in CH3OH is attributed to the vibrational relaxation through Fermi resonance. These vibrational lifetimes are close to those of the nitrile and azido groups but shorter than those of the isonitrile group. Consequently, cyanamide behaves like an apparent vibrational hybrid of nitrile and isonitrile in that cyanamide is similar to nitrile in vibrational frequency and lifetime but to isonitrile in transition dipole strength. It is believed that cyanamide has the potential to be a strongly absorbing IR reporter of the conformational and environmental structure and dynamics of biomolecules in comparison to nitrile, a weak absorber.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4035-4044
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Physical Chemistry B
Issue number14
Publication statusPublished - 2018 Apr 12

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 American Chemical Society.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry
  • Surfaces, Coatings and Films
  • Materials Chemistry


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