Studying organic reaction mechanisms using quantum chemical methods requires from the researcher an extensive knowledge of both organic chemistry and first-principles computation. The need for empirical knowledge arises because any reasonably complete exploration of the potential energy surfaces (PES) of organic reactions is computationally prohibitive. We have previously introduced the Heuristically-Aided Quantum Chemistry (HAQC) approach to modeling complex chemical reactions, which abstracts the empirical knowledge in terms of chemical heuristics—simple rules guiding the PES exploration—and combines them with structure optimizations using quantum chemical methods. The HAQC approach makes use of heuristic kinetic criteria for selecting reaction paths that are not only plausible, that is, consistent with the empirical rules of organic reactivity, but also feasible under the reaction conditions. In this work, we develop heuristic kinetic feasilibity criteria, which correctly predict feasible reaction pathways for a wide range of simple polar (substitutions, additions, and eliminations) and pericyclic organic reactions (cyclizations, sigmatropic shifts, and cycloadditions). In contrast to knowledge-based reaction mechanism prediction methods, the same kinetic heuristics are successful in classifying reaction pathways as feasible or infeasible across this diverse set of reaction mechanisms. We discuss the energy profiles of HAQC and their potential applications in machine learning of chemical reactivity.
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