Electro-inductive Effect Dominates Vibrational Frequency Shifts of Conjugated Probes on Gold Electrodes

William R. Lake, Jinhui Meng, Jahan M. Dawlaty, Tianquan Lian, Sharon Hammes-Schiffer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Interfacial electric fields play a critical role in electrocatalysis and are often characterized by using vibrational probes attached to an electrode surface. Understanding the physical principles dictating the impact of the applied electrode potential on the vibrational probe frequency is important. Herein, a comparative study is performed for two molecular probes attached to a gold electrode. Both probes contain a nitrile (CN) group, but 4-mercaptobenzonitrile (4-MBN) exhibits continuous conjugation from the electrode through the nitrile group, whereas this conjugation is interrupted for 2-(4-mercaptophenyl)acetonitrile (4-MPCN). Periodic density functional theory calculations predict that the CN vibrational frequency shift of the 4-MBN system is dominated by induction, which is a through-bond polarization effect, leading to a strong potential dependence that does not depend significantly on the orientation of the CN bond relative to the surface. In contrast, the CN vibrational frequency shift of the 4-MPCN system is influenced less by induction and more by through-space electric field effects, leading to a weaker potential dependence and a greater orientation dependence. These theoretical predictions were confirmed by surface-enhanced Raman spectroscopy experiments. Balancing through-bond and through-space electrostatic effects may assist in the fundamental understanding and design of electrocatalytic systems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)22548-22554
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of the American Chemical Society
Issue number41
StatePublished - Oct 18 2023
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Catalysis
  • General Chemistry
  • Biochemistry
  • Colloid and Surface Chemistry


Dive into the research topics of 'Electro-inductive Effect Dominates Vibrational Frequency Shifts of Conjugated Probes on Gold Electrodes'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this