We study systematically the vibrational circular dichroism (VCD) spectra of the conformers of a simple chiral molecule, with one chiral carbon and an "achiral" alkyl substituent of varying length. The vibrational modes can be divided into a group involving the chiral center and its direct neighbors and the modes of the achiral substituent. Conformational changes that consist of rotations around the bond from the next-nearest neighbor to the following carbon, and bond rotations further in the chain, do not affect the modes around the chiral center. However, conformational changes within the chiral fragment have dramatic effects, often reversing the sign of the rotational strength. The equivalence of the effect of enantiomeric change of the atomic configuration and conformational change on the VCD sign (rotational strength) is studied. It is explained as an effect of atomic characteristics, such as the nuclear amplitudes in some vibrational modes as well as the atomic polar and axial tensors, being to a high degree determined by the local topology of the atomic configuration. They reflect the local physics of the electron motions that generate the chemical bonds rather than the overall shape of the molecule. © 2012 American Chemical Society.
Heshmat, M., Nicu, V. P., & Baerends, E. J. (2012). On the equivalence of conformational and enantiomeric changes of atomic configuration for vibrational circular dichroism. Journal of Physical Chemistry A, 3454-3464. https://doi.org/10.1021/jp212545z