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In The Journal of chemical physics

Polyphenols are natural molecules of crucial importance in many applications, of which tannic acid (TA) is one of the most abundant and established. Most high-value applications require precise control of TA interactions with the system of interest. However, the molecular structure of TA is still not comprehended at the atomic level, of which all electronic and reactivity properties depend. Here, we combine an enhanced sampling global optimization method with density functional theory (DFT)-based calculations to explore the conformational space of TA assisted by unsupervised machine learning visualization and then investigate its lowest energy conformers. We study the external environment's effect on the TA structure and properties. We find that vacuum favors compact structures by stabilizing peripheral atoms' weak interactions, while in water, the molecule adopts more open conformations. The frontier molecular orbitals of the conformers with the lowest harmonic vibrational free energy have a HOMO-LUMO energy gap of 2.21 (3.27) eV, increasing to 2.82 (3.88) eV in water, at the DFT generalized gradient approximation (and hybrid) level of theory. Structural differences also change the distribution of potential reactive sites. We establish the fundamental importance of accurate structural consideration in determining TA and related polyphenol interactions in relevant technological applications.

Petry Romana, Focassio Bruno, Schleder Gabriel R, Martinez Diego Stéfani T, Fazzio Adalberto