• ab initio calculations;
  • astrochemistry;
  • cyanoacetaldehyde;
  • density functional calculations;
  • IR spectroscopy


Cyanoacetaldehyde (NC[BOND]CH2CH[DOUBLE BOND]O) and its isomer, cyanovinylalcohol (NC[BOND]CH[DOUBLE BOND]CH[BOND]OH), as possible components of the interstellar medium, comets, or planetary atmospheres, exist in equilibrium in the gas phase, although the latter compound is very much in the minority (2 %). The recording and analysis of the gas-phase infrared spectrum of the former compound within the 4000–500 cm−1 spectroscopic range and the potential presence of the latter isomer, which could be vital for their detection in these media, are reported. CCSD(T) and G4 high-level ab initio methods, as well as density functional theory calculations, predict the existence of two stable rotamers of cyanoacetaldehyde. The global minimum has a structure with an unusual O-C-C-C dihedral angle (150°) that falls between the antiperiplanar (180°) and anticlinal forms (120°). The second rotamer, which is about 4.0 kJ mol−1 less stable in terms of free energy, has a planar structure that corresponds to the synperiplanar form (O-C-C-C dihedral angle: 0°). The absorption vibrational bands of the two aldehyde rotamers that are present in the mixture lead to a spectrum with a very complex structure in the region of deformation movements, in which several low-intensity bands overlap. A complete and unambiguous assignment of the experimental spectrum has been achieved by using the calculated harmonic and anharmonic vibrational frequencies.