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Keywords:

  • formation enthalpy;
  • hydrogen bonds;
  • molecular recognition;
  • solvent effects;
  • statistical thermodynamics

Abstract

Molecular recognition events in solution are affected by many different factors that have hampered the development of an understanding of intermolecular interactions at a quantitative level. Our tendency is to partition these effects into discrete phenomenological fields that are classified, named, and divorced: aromatic interactions, cation–π interactions, CH[BOND]O hydrogen bonds, short strong hydrogen bonds, and hydrophobic interactions to name a few.1 To progress in the field, we need to develop an integrated quantitative appreciation of the relative magnitudes of all of the different effects that might influence the molecular recognition behavior of a given system. In an effort to navigate undergraduates through the vast and sometimes contradictory literature on the subject, I have developed an approach that treats theoretical ideas and experimental observations about intermolecular interactions in the gas phase, the solid state, and solution from a single simplistic viewpoint. The key features are outlined here, and although many of the ideas will be familiar, the aim is to provide a semiquantitative thermodynamic ranking of these effects in solution at room temperature.