J Phys Chem A. 2022 Sep 22. doi: 10.1021/acs.jpca.2c04038. Online ahead of print.
The prediction of comonomer incorporation statistics in polyolefin catalysis necessitates an accurate calculation of free energies corresponding to monomer binding and insertion, often requiring sub-kcal/mol resolution to resolve experimental free energies. Batch reactor experiments are used to probe incorporation statistics of ethene and larger α-olefins for three constrained geometry complexes which are employed as model systems. Herein, over 6 ns of quantum mechanics/molecular mechanics (QM/MM) molecular dynamics is performed in combination with the zero-temperature string method to characterize the solution-phase insertion barrier and to analyze the contributions from conformational and vibrational anharmonicity arising both in vacuum and in solution. Conformational sampling in the solution-phase results in 0-2 kcal/mol corrections to the insertion barrier which are on the same scale necessary to resolve experimental free energies. Anharmonic contributions from conformational sampling in the solution phase are crucial energy contributions missing from static density functional theory calculations and implicit solvation models, and the accurate calculation of these contributions is a key step toward the quantitative prediction of comonomer incorporation statistics.