Anharmonic, dynamic and functional level effects in far-infrared spectroscopy: Phenol derivatives

Daniël J. Bakker, Qin Ong, Arghya Dey, Jérôme Mahé, Marie Pierre Gaigeot*, Anouk M. Rijs

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


The far-infrared (far-IR) spectra of phenol and four ortho-substituted phenol derivatives, including three deuterated analogs, are presented. These spectra, measured using the free electron laser FELIX, are used to compare the performance of Born-Oppenheimer Molecular Dynamics (BOMD) with several commonly used levels of static density functional theory in the far-IR region. The molecules studied here form intramolecular hydrogen bonds of different strengths (except phenol), display diverse degrees of flexibility, and the OH moieties of the molecules provide large amplitude, anharmonic OH torsional modes. Since several of the molecules contain two OH groups, strong anharmonic couplings can also be present. Moreover, the experimental far-IR spectra of phenol and saligenin show overtones and combination bands as proven by the measurements of their deuterated analogs. All these characteristics of the molecules enable us to test the performance of the applied levels of theory on different complicating factors. Briefly summarized, both the strength of the hydrogen bond and molecular rigidity do not significantly influence the agreement between theory and experiment. All applied theoretical methods have difficulties to consistently predict modes that include the anharmonic OH torsional motion, resulting in overestimated intensities and frequencies. Coupling between two OH functional groups provides an additional challenge for theories, as seen for catechol. The various employed theoretical methods are found to complement each other, showing good results for complex harmonic modes in the case of static B3LYP-D3, while improved results are observed for anharmonic modes, including the OH torsional modes and their couplings, in the case of BOMD. Additionally, BOMD calculates the relative intensities better than the other theories. VPT2 reproduces weak anharmonic modes well, but it overestimates shifts and intensities for strong anharmonic modes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4-16
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Molecular Spectroscopy
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Born-Oppenheimer Molecular Dynamics (BOMD)
  • Density functional theory
  • Far-infrared spectroscopy
  • Hydrogen bonding
  • Large amplitude motions
  • Phenol derivatives


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