Dynamics in a terpene cation rearrangement

Dynamics Steven Bachrach 10 Sep 2018 No Comments

Sarpong and Tantillo have examined the acid-catalyzed Prins/semipinacol rearrangement of hydroxylated pinenes, such as Reaction 1.1

Rxn 1

Interestingly, only the fenchone scaffold products, like 1, are observed and the camphor scaffold products, like 2, are not observed. Cation intermediates are likely, and this means that a primary alkyl shift is taking place in preference to a tertiary alkyl shift, see Scheme 1.

Scheme 1.

Primary alkyl shift

Tertiary alkyl shift

They proposed the following key steps in the reaction mechanism:

ωB97X-D/6-31+G(d,p) computations find a flat surface around cation intermediate 4: the TS leading to 5 and 6 are only 1.3 and 3.3 kcal mol-1, respectively. Since these small barriers are quite susceptible to changes in basis set and functional, and since Tantillo has found many examples of post-transition state bifurcations in cation systems, the authors reasonably decided to conduct molecular dynamics trajectories originating at the TS connecting 3 and 4. The geometries of the critical points are shown in Figure 1.

The trajectory study shows all the usual characteristics of reactions that are under dynamic control. A third of the trajectories show recrossing of the barrier, typical of very flat surfaces. Nearly all of the remaining trajectories led to 5, with only 2 trajectories (~1%) leading to 6. The dynamics are understandable in terms of favoring the primary alkyl shift over the tertiary since a significantly smaller mass needs to move in the former case.

TS 3 → 4


TS 4 → 5

TS 4 → 6

Figure 1. ωB97X-D/6-31+G(d,p) optimized geometries.

This is yet another study that implicates dynamic effects in routine reactions, one of many I have discussed over the years.


1. Blümel, M.; Nagasawa, S.; Blackford, K.; Hare, S. R.; Tantillo, D. J.; Sarpong, R., "Rearrangement of Hydroxylated Pinene Derivatives to Fenchone-Type Frameworks: Computational Evidence for Dynamically-Controlled Selectivity." J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2018, 140, 9291-9298, DOI: 10.1021/jacs.8b05804.


1: InChI=1S/C17H20O2/c1-16-9-12-8-13(16)14(11-6-4-3-5-7-11)19-10-17(12,2)15(16)18/h3-7,12-14H,8-10H2,1-2H3/t12?,13?,14-,16?,17?/m0/s1

2: InChI=1S/C17H20O2/c1-16-10-19-15(11-6-4-3-5-7-11)13-8-12(16)9-14(18)17(13,16)2/h3-7,12-13,15H,8-10H2,1-2H3/t12?,13?,15-,16?,17?/m0/s1


Aromaticity &host-guest Steven Bachrach 28 Aug 2018 No Comments

It never hurts to promote one’s science through clever names – think cubane, buckminsterfullerene, bullvalene, etc. Host-guest chemistry is not immune to this cliché too, and this post discusses the latest synthesis and computations of a nano-Saturn; nano-Saturns are a spherical guest molecule captured inside a ring host molecule. I discussed an example of this a number of years ago – the nano-Saturn comprised of C60 fullerene surrounded by [10]cycloparaphenylene.

Yamamoto, Tsurumaki, Wakamatsu, and Toyota have prepared a nano-Saturn complex with the goal of making a flatter ring component.1 The inner planet is modeled again by C60 and the ring is the [24]circulene analogue 1. The x-ray crystal structure of this nano-Saturn complex is shown in Figure 1.

1: R = 2,4,6-tri-iso-propylphenyl
2: R = H

Figure 1. X-ray crystal structure of the nano-Saturn complex of 1 with C60.

Variable temperature NMR experiments gave the binding values of ΔH = -18.1 ± 2.3 kJ mol-1 and TΔS = 0.8 ± 2.2 kJ mol-1 at 298 K. To gauge this binding energy, they computed the complex of C60 with the parent compound 2 at B3LYP/6-1G(d)//M05-2X/6-31G(d), unfortunately without publishing the coordinates in the supporting materials. The computed binding enthalpy is ΔH = -50.6 kJ mol-1, but this computation is for the gas phase. The computed structure shows close contacts of 0.29 nm between the fullerene and the C9-proton of the anthracenyl groups, in excellent agreement with the x-ray structure. These weak C-Hπ interactions undoubtedly help stabilize the complex, especially given that the fullerene carries a very tiny Mulliken charge of +0.08 e.


1) Yuta, Y.; Eiji, T.; Kan, W.; Shinji, T., "Nano-Saturn: Experimental Evidence of Complex Formation of an Anthracene Cyclic Ring with C60." Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. 2018, 57, 8199-8202, DOI: 10.1002/anie.201804430.


1: InChI=1S/C174H180/c1-91(2)121-78-150(97(13)14)164(151(79-121)98(15)16)163-90-128-71-139-70-127-59-109(37-38-120(127)77-162(139)163)110-39-49-140-129(60-110)72-130-61-111(40-50-141(130)165(140)170-152(99(17)18)80-122(92(3)4)81-153(170)100(19)20)112-41-51-142-131(62-112)73-132-63-113(42-52-143(132)166(142)171-154(101(21)22)82-123(93(5)6)83-155(171)102(23)24)114-43-53-144-133(64-114)74-134-65-115(44-54-145(134)167(144)172-156(103(25)26)84-124(94(7)8)85-157(172)104(27)28)116-45-55-146-135(66-116)75-136-67-117(46-56-147(136)168(146)173-158(105(29)30)86-125(95(9)10)87-159(173)106(31)32)118-47-57-148-137(68-118)76-138-69-119(128)48-58-149(138)169(148)174-160(107(33)34)88-126(96(11)12)89-161(174)108(35)36/h37-108H,1-36H3

2: InChI=1S/C84H48/c1-13-61-25-62-15-3-51-33-75(62)43-73(61)31-49(1)50-2-14-63-26-64-16-4-52(34-76(64)44-74(63)32-50)54-6-18-66-28-68-20-8-56(38-80(68)46-78(66)36-54)58-10-22-70-30-72-24-12-60(42-84(72)48-82(70)40-58)59-11-23-71-29-69-21-9-57(39-81(69)47-83(71)41-59)55-7-19-67-27-65-17-5-53(51)35-77(65)45-79(67)37-55/h1-48H

An ambiphilic diene for bioorthogonal labeling

Diels-Alder &Houk Steven Bachrach 06 Aug 2018 No Comments

I recently posted on a paper proposing 1,2-benzoquinone and related compounds as the diene component for bioorthogonal labeling. Levandowski, Gamache, Murphy, and Houk report on tetrachlorocyclopentadiene ketal 1 as an active ambiphilic diene component.1

1 is sterically congested to diminish self-dimerization and will react with both electron-rich and electron-poor dienes. To test it as an active diene in bioorthogonal labeling applications, they optimized the structures of the transition states at CPCM(water)/M06-2X/6-311+G(d,p)//CPCM(water)/M06-2X/6-31G(d) for the Diels-Alder reaction of 1 with a variety of dienophiles including trans-cyclooctene 2 and endo-bicyclononyne 3. These transition states are shown in Figure 1. The activation free energy is quite low for each: 18.1 kcal mol-1 with 2 and 18.9 kcal mol-1 with 3.



Figure 1. CPCM(water)/M06-2X/6-31G(d) optimized geometries for the TSs of the reaction of 1 with 2 and 3.

Experiments were successfully run using 1 as a label on a neuropeptide.


1) Levandowski, B. J.; Gamache, R. F.; Murphy, J. M.; Houk, K. N., "Readily Accessible Ambiphilic Cyclopentadienes for Bioorthogonal Labeling." J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2018, 140, 6426-6431, DOI: 10.1021/jacs.8b02978.



Aminomethylene carbene does not rearrange by tunneling

Schreiner &Tunneling Steven Bachrach 23 Jul 2018 1 Comment

Eckhardt and Schreiner have spectroscopically characterized the aminomethylene carbene 1.1 Their characterization rests on IR spectra, with comparison to the computed AE-CCSD(T)/cc-pCVQZ anharmonic vibrational frequencies, and the UV-Vis spectra, with comparison to the computed B3LYP/6–311++G(2d,2p) transitions.

1 can be converted to 2 by photolysis. Interestingly, 1 does not convert to 2 after 5 days on the matrix in the dark. This is in distinct contrast to hydroxycarbene and related other carbene which undergo quantum mechanical tunneling (see this post and this post). Examination of the potential energy surface for the reaction of 1 to 2 at AE-CCSD(T)/cc-pCVQZ (see Figure 1) identifies that the lowest barrier is 45.8 kcal mol-1, about 15 kcal mol-1 larger than the barrier for the hydroxycarbene rearrangement. Additionally, the barrier width for 12 is 25% larger than for the hydroxycarbenes. Both of these suggest substantially reduced tunneling, and WKB analysis predicts a tunneling half-life of more than a billion years. The stability of 1 is attributed to the strong π-donor ability of nitrogen to the electron-poor carbene. This is reflected in a very short C-N bond (1.27 Å).

Figure 1. Structures and energies of 1 and 2 and the transition states that connect them. The relative energies (kcal mol-1) are computed at AE-CCSD(T)/cc-pCVQZ.


1) Eckhardt, A. K.; Schreiner, P. R., "Spectroscopic Evidence for Aminomethylene (H−C̈−NH2)—The
Simplest Amino Carbene." Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. 2018, 57, 5248-5252, DOI: 10.1002/anie.201800679.


1: InChI=1S/CH3N/c1-2/h1H,2H2

2: InChI=1S/CH3N/c1-2/h2H,1H2

Another long C-C bond

Uncategorized Steven Bachrach 10 Jul 2018 No Comments

This is a third post in a series dealing with very short or very long distances between atoms. Ishigaki, Shimajiri, Takeda, Katoono, and Suzuki have prepared three related analogues of hexaphenylethane that all have long C-C bonds.1 The idea is to create a core by fusing two adjacent phenyls into a naphylene, and then protect the long C-C bond through a shell made up of large aryl groups, 1. Fusing another 5-member ring opposite to the stretched C-C bond (2) creates a scissor effect that should stretch that bond further, even more so in the unsaturated version 3.

Their M062-x/6-31G* computations predict an increasing longer C-C bond (highlighted in blue in the above drawing): 1.730 Å in 1, 1.767 Å in 2, and 1.771 Å in 3. The structure of 3 is shown in Figure 3.

Figure 1. M06-2x/6-31G(d) optimized structure of 3.

These three compounds were synthesized, and characterized by IR and Raman spectroscopy. Their x-ray crystal structures at 200 K and 400K were also determined. The C-C distances are 1.742 Å (1), 1.773 Å (2) and 1.798 Å (3) with distances slightly longer at 400 K. These rank as the longest C-C bonds recorded.


1) Ishigaki, Y.; Shimajiri, T.; Takeda, T.; Katoono, R.; Suzuki, T., "Longest C–C Single Bond among Neutral Hydrocarbons with a Bond Length beyond 1.8 Å." Chem 2018, 4, 795-806, DOI: 10.1016/j.chempr.2018.01.011.


1: InChI=1S/C40H26/c1-5-17-32-27(11-1)23-24-28-12-2-6-18-33(28)39(32)36-21-9-15-31-16-10-22-37(38(31)36)40(39)34-19-7-3-13-29(34)25-26-30-14-4-8-20-35(30)40/h1-26H

2: InChI=1S/C42H28/c1-5-13-33-27(9-1)17-18-28-10-2-6-14-34(28)41(33)37-25-23-31-21-22-32-24-26-38(40(37)39(31)32)42(41)35-15-7-3-11-29(35)19-20-30-12-4-8-16-36(30)42/h1-20,23-26H,21-22H2

3: InChI=1S/C42H26/c1-5-13-33-27(9-1)17-18-28-10-2-6-14-34(28)41(33)37-25-23-31-21-22-32-24-26-38(40(37)39(31)32)42(41)35-15-7-3-11-29(35)19-20-30-12-4-8-16-36(30)42/h1-26H

Long C-C bonds are not caused by crystal packing forces

adamantane &DFT &Grimme &MP &Schreiner Steven Bachrach 25 Jun 2018 No Comments

Schreiner and Grimme have examined a few compounds (see these previous posts) with long C-C bonds that are found in congested systems where dispersion greatly aids in stabilizing the stretched bond. Their new paper1 continues this theme by examining 1 (again) and 2, using computations, and x-ray crystallography and gas-phase rotational spectroscopy and electron diffraction to establish the long C-C bond.

The distance of the long central bond in 1 is 1.647 Å (x-ray) and 1.630 Å (electron diffraction). Similarly, this distance in 2 is 1.642 Å (x-ray) and 1.632 Å (ED). These experiments discount any role for crystal packing forces in leading to the long bond.

A very nice result from the computations is that most functionals that include some dispersion correction predict the C-C distance in the optimized structures with an error of no more than 0.01 Å. (PW6B95-D3/DEF2-QZVP structures are shown in Figure 1.) Not surprisingly, HF and B3LYP without a dispersion correction predict a bond that is too long.) MP2 predicts a distance that is too short, but SCS-MP2 does a very good job.



Figure 1. PW6B95-D3/DEF2-QZVP optimized structures of 1 and 2.


1) Fokin, A. A.; Zhuk, T. S.; Blomeyer, S.; Pérez, C.; Chernish, L. V.; Pashenko, A. E.; Antony, J.; Vishnevskiy, Y. V.; Berger, R. J. F.; Grimme, S.; Logemann, C.; Schnell, M.; Mitzel, N. W.; Schreiner, P. R., "Intramolecular London Dispersion Interaction Effects on Gas-Phase and Solid-State Structures of Diamondoid Dimers." J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2017, 139, 16696-16707, DOI: 10.1021/jacs.7b07884.


1: InChI=1S/C28H38/c1-13-7-23-19-3-15-4-20(17(1)19)24(8-13)27(23,11-15)28-12-16-5-21-18-2-14(9-25(21)28)10-26(28)22(18)6-16/h13-26H,1-12H2

2: InChI=1S/C26H34O2/c1-11-3-19-15-7-13-9-25(19,21(5-11)23(27-13)17(1)15)26-10-14-8-16-18-2-12(4-20(16)26)6-22(26)24(18)28-14/h11-24H,1-10H2

An even shorter non-bonding HH distance

Uncategorized Steven Bachrach 22 May 2018 1 Comment

The competition for finding molecules with ever-closer non-bonding HH interactions is heating up. I have previously blogged about 1, a in,in-Bis(hydrosilane) designed by Pascal,1 with an HH distance of 1.57 Å, and also blogged about 2, the dimer of tri(di-t-butylphenyl)methane,2 where the distance between methine hydrogens on adjacent molecules is 1.566 Å.

Now Pascal reports on 3, which shows an even closer HH approach.3

The x-ray structure of 3 shows the in,in relationship of the two critical hydrogens, HA and HB. Though the positions of these hydrogens were refined, the C-H distance are artificially foreshortened. A variety of computed structures are reported, and these all support a very short HH non-bonding distance of about 1.52 Å. The B3PW91-D3/cc-pVTZ optimized structure is shown in Figure 1.

Figure 1. B3PW91-D3/cc-pVTZ optimized structure of 3.

The authors also note an unusual feature of the 1H NMR spectrum of 3: the HB signal appears as a double with JAB= 2.0 Hz. B3LYP/6–311++G(2df,2pd) NMR computations indicated a coupling of 3.1 Hz. This is the largest through-space coupling recorded.


1. Zong, J.; Mague, J. T.; Pascal, R. A., "Exceptional Steric Congestion in an in,in-Bis(hydrosilane)." J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2013, 135, 13235-13237, DOI: 10.1021/ja407398w.

2. Rösel, S.; Quanz, H.; Logemann, C.; Becker, J.; Mossou, E.; Cañadillas-Delgado, L.; Caldeweyher, E.; Grimme, S.; Schreiner, P. R., "London Dispersion Enables the Shortest Intermolecular Hydrocarbon H···H Contact." J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2017, 139, 7428–7431, DOI: 10.1021/jacs.7b01879.

3. Xiao, Y.; Mague, J. T.; Pascal, R. A., "An Exceptionally Close, Non-Bonded Hydrogen–Hydrogen Contact with Strong Through-Space Spin–Spin Coupling." Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. 2018, 57, 2244-2247, DOI: 10.1002/anie.201712304.


3: InChI=1S/C27H24S3/c1-4-17-13-28-10-16-11-29-14-18-5-2-8-21-24(18)27-23(17)20(7-1)26(21)22-9-3-6-19(25(22)27)15-30-12-16/h1-9,16,26-27H,10-15H2

MD studies of simple pericyclic reactions

Cope Rearrangement &Diels-Alder &Dynamics &Houk Steven Bachrach 07 May 2018 No Comments

At the recent ACS meeting in New Orleans, Ken Houk spoke at the Dreyfus award session in honor of Michele Parrinello. Ken’s talk included discussion of some recent molecular dynamics studies of pericyclic reactions. Because of their similarities in approaches and observations, I will discuss three recent papers from his group (which Ken discussed in New Orleans) in this post.

The Cope rearrangement, a fundamental organic reaction, has been studied extensively by computational means (see Chapter 4.2 of my book). Mackey, Yang, and Houk examine the degenerate Cope rearrangement of 1,5-hexadiene with molecular dynamics at the (U)B3LYP/6-31G(d) level.1 They examined 230 trajectories, and find that of the 95% of them that are reactive, 94% are trajectories that directly cross through the transition zone. By this, Houk means that the time gap between the breaking and forming C-C bonds is less than 60 fs, the time for one C-C bond vibration. The average time in the transition zone is 35 fs. This can be thought of as “dynamically concerted”. For the other few trajectories, a transient diradical with lifetime of about 100 fs is found.

The dimerization of cyclopentadiene finds the two [4+2] pathways merging into a single bispericylic transition state. 2 Only a small minority (13%) of the trajectories sample the region about the Cope rearrangement that interconverts the two mirror image dimers. These trajectories average about 60 fs in this space, which comes from the time separation between the formation of the two new C-C bonds. The majority of the trajectories quickly pass through the dimerization transition zone in about 18 fs, and avoid the Cope TS region entirely. These paths can be thought of as “dynamically concerted”, while the other set of trajectories are “dynamically stepwise”. It should be noted however that the value of S2 in the Cope transition zone are zero and so no radicals are being formed.

Finally, Yang, Dong, Yu, Yu, Li, Jamieson, and Houk examined 15 different reactions that involve ambimodal (i.e. bispericyclic) transition states.3 They find a strong correlation between the differences in the bond lengths of the two possible new bond vs. their product distribution. So for example, in the reaction shown in Scheme 1, bond a is the one farthest along to forming. Bond b is slightly shorter than bond c. Which of these two is formed next is dependent on the dynamics, and it turns out the Pab is formed from 73% of the trajectories while Pac is formed only 23% of the time. This trend is seen across the 15 reaction, namely the shorter of bond b or c in the transition state leads to the larger product formation. When competing reactions involve bonds with differing elements, then a correlation can be found with bond order instead of with bond length.

Scheme 1


1) Mackey, J. L.; Yang, Z.; Houk, K. N., "Dynamically concerted and stepwise trajectories of the Cope rearrangement of 1,5-hexadiene." Chem. Phys. Lett. 2017, 683, 253-257, DOI: 10.1016/j.cplett.2017.03.011.

2) Yang, Z.; Zou, L.; Yu, Y.; Liu, F.; Dong, X.; Houk, K. N., "Molecular dynamics of the two-stage mechanism of cyclopentadiene dimerization: concerted or stepwise?" Chem. Phys. 2018, in press, DOI: 10.1016/j.chemphys.2018.02.020.

3) Yang, Z.; Dong, X.; Yu, Y.; Yu, P.; Li, Y.; Jamieson, C.; Houk, K. N., "Relationships between Product Ratios in Ambimodal Pericyclic Reactions and Bond Lengths in Transition Structures." J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2018, 140, 3061-3067, DOI: 10.1021/jacs.7b13562.

The structure of gauche-1,3-butadiene

Tunneling Steven Bachrach 24 Apr 2018 1 Comment

Sometimes you run across a paper that is surprising for a strange reason: hasn’t this work been done years before? That was my response to seeing this paper on the structure of gauche-1,3-butadiene.1 Surely, a molecule as simple as this has been examined to death. But, in fact there has been some controversy over whether the cis or gauche form is the second lowest energy conformation. Computations have indicated that the cis form is a transition state for interconverting the two gauche isomers, but experimental confirmation was probably so late in coming due to the small amount of the gauche form present and its small dipole moment.

This paper describes Fourier-transform microwave (FTMW) spectroscopy using two variants: cavity-enhanced FTMW combined with a supersonic expansion and chirped-pulse FTMW in a cryogenic buffer gas cell. In addition, computations were done at CCSD(T) using cc-pCVTZ through cc-pCV5Z basis sets and corrections for perturbative quadruples. The computed structure is shown in Figure 1. In addition to confirming this non-planar structure, with a C-C-C-C dihedral angle of 33.8°, they demonstrate the tunneling between the two mirror image gauche conformations, through the cis transition state.

Figure 1. Computed geometry of gauche-1,3-butadiene.


1. Baraban, J. H.; Martin-Drumel, M.-A.; Changala, P. B.; Eibenberger, S.; Nava, M.; Patterson, D.; Stanton, J. F.; Ellison, G. B.; McCarthy, M. C., "The Molecular Structure of gauche-1,3-Butadiene: Experimental Establishment of Non-planarity." Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. 2018, 57, 1821-1825, DOI: 10.1002/anie.201709966.


1,3-butadiene: InChI=1S/C4H6/c1-3-4-2/h3-4H,1-2H2

quintuple helicene fused corannulene

Aromaticity Steven Bachrach 09 Apr 2018 No Comments

Corannulene 1 is an interesting aromatic compound because it is nonplanar, having a bowl shape. [6]helicene is an interesting aromatic compound because it is nonplanar, having the shape of a helix. Kato, Segawa, Scott and Itami have joined these together to synthesize the interesting quintuple helicene compound 3.1

The optimized structure of 3 is shown in Figure 1. They utilized computations to corroborate two experimental findings. First, the NMR spectra of 3 shows a small number of signals indicating that the bowl inversion should be rapid. The molecule has C5 symmetry due to the bowl shape of the corannulene core. Rapid inversion makes the molecule effectively D5. (The inversion transition state is of D5 symmetry, and would be a nice quiz question for those looking for molecules of unusual point groups.) The B3LYP/6-31G(d) computed bowl inversion barrier is only 1.9 kcal mol-1, significantly less that the bowl inversion barrier of 1: 10.4 kcal mol-1. This reduction is partly due to the shallower bowl depth of 3 (0.572 Å in the x-ray structure, 0.325 Å in the computed structure) than in 1 (0.87 Å).

Figure 1. Optimized structure of 3.

Second, they took the enhanced MMMMM-isomer and heated it to obtain the thermodynamic properties for the inversion to the PPPPP-isomer. (The PPPPP-isomer is shown in the top scheme.) The experimental values are ΔH = 36.8 kcal mol-1, ΔS = 8.7 cal mol-1 K-1, and ΔG = 34.2 kcal mol-1 at 298 K. They computed all of the stereoisomers of 3 along with the transition states connecting them. The largest barrier is found in going from MMMMM3 to MMMMP3 with a computed barrier of 34.5 kcal mol-1, in nice agreement with experiment.


1. Kato, K.; Segawa, Y.; Scott, L. T.; Itami, K., "A Quintuple [6]Helicene with a Corannulene Core as a C5-Symmetric Propeller-Shaped π-System." Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. 2018, 57, 1337-1341, DOI: 10.1002/anie.201711985.


1: InChI=1S/C20H10/c1-2-12-5-6-14-9-10-15-8-7-13-4-3-11(1)16-17(12)19(14)20(15)18(13)16/h1-10H

2: InChI=1S/C26H16/c1-3-7-22-17(5-1)9-11-19-13-15-21-16-14-20-12-10-18-6-2-4-8-23(18)25(20)26(21)24(19)22/h1-16H

3: InChI=1S/C80H40/c1-11-31-51-41(21-1)42-22-2-12-32-52(42)62-61(51)71-63-53-33-13-3-23-43(53)44-24-4-14-34-54(44)64(63)73-67-57-37-17-7-27-47(57)48-28-8-18-38-58(48)68(67)75-70-60-40-20-10-30-50(60)49-29-9-19-39-59(49)69(70)74-66-56-36-16-6-26-46(56)45-25-5-15-35-55(45)65(66)72(62)77-76(71)78(73)80(75)79(74)77/h1-40H

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