A tale of two conformers: Spectroscopic evidence for halide catalysed formic acid isomerisation

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Title

Physical Chemistry Chemical Physics

PubMed ID



Royal Society of Chemistry


School of Science


Australian Research Council / The School of Molecular Sciences of UWA / Australian Government Research Training Program scholarship / Center for Materials Crystallography at Aarhus University in Denmark, Danish National Research Foundation (DNRF93)

Grant Number

ARC Number : LE110100093

Grant Link



Haakansson, C. T., Corkish, T. R., Watson, P. D., Robinson, H. T., Brookes, J. R., Adam, H. C., ... & Wild, D. A. (2022). A tale of two conformers: spectroscopic evidence for halide catalysed formic acid isomerisation. Physical Chemistry Chemical Physics, 24(40), 24748-24758. https://doi.org/10.1039/d2cp03634g


Halide-formic acid complexes have been studied utilising a combined experimental and theoretical approach. Formic acid exists as two conformers, distinguished by the relative rotation about the C-OH bond. Computational investigation of the formic acid isomerisation reaction between the two conformers has revealed the ability of halide anions to catalyse the formation of, and preferentially stabilise, the higher energy conformer. Anion photoelectron spectroscopy has been used to study the halide-formic acid complexes, with the experimental vertical detachment energies compared with simulated photodetachment energies with respect to halide complexes with both formic acid conformers. The existence of experimental spectral features associated with halide complexes of the higher energy formic acid confomer confirms in situ generation, likely as a result of the halide mediated catalytic formation.



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