Journal of Physical Chemistry A, Vol.112, No.31, 7128-7136, 2008
Understanding reaction mechanisms in organic chemistry from catastrophe theory applied to the electron localization function topology
Thom's catastrophe theory applied to the evolution of the topology of the electron localization function (ELF) gradient field constitutes a way to rationalize the reorganization of electron pairing and a powerful tool for the unambiguous determination of the molecular mechanisms of a given chemical reaction. The identification of the turning points connecting the ELF structural stability domains along the reaction pathway allows a rigorous characterization of the sequence of electron pair rearrangements taking place during a chemical transformation, such as multiple bond forming/breaking processes, ring closure processes, creation/annihilation of lone pairs, transformations of C-C multiple bonds into single ones. The reaction mechanism of some relevant organic reactions: Diels-Alder, 1,3-dipolar cycloaddition and Cope rearrangement are reviewed to illustrate the potential of the present approach.