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Title: Evaluating Simple Ab Initio Models of the Hydrated Electron: The Role of Dynamical Fluctuations
Despite its importance in electron transfer reactions and radiation chemistry, there has been disagreement over the fundamental nature of the hydrated electron, such as whether or not it resides in a cavity. Mixed quantum/classical simulations of the hydrated electron give different structures depending on the pseudopotential employed, and ab initio models of computational necessity use small numbers of water molecules and/or provide insufficient statistics to compare to experimental observables. A few years ago, Kumar et al. (J. Phys. Chem. A 2015, 119, 9148) proposed a minimalist ab initio model of the hydrated electron with only a small number of explicitly treated water molecules plus a polarizable continuum model (PCM). They found that the optimized geometry had four waters arranged tetrahedrally around a central cavity, and that the calculated vertical detachment energy and radius of gyration agreed well with experiment, results that were largely independent of the level of theory employed. The model, however, is based on a fixed structure at 0 K and does not explicitly incorporate entropic contributions or the thermal fluctuations that should be associated with the room-temperature hydrated electron. Thus, in this paper, we extend the model of Kumar et al. by running Born−Oppenheimer molecular dynamics (BOMD) more » of a small number of water molecules with an excess electron plus PCM at room temperature. We find that when thermal fluctuations are introduced, the level of theory chosen becomes critical enough when only four waters are used that one of the waters dissociates from the cluster with certain density functionals. Moreover, even with an optimally tuned range-separated hybrid functional, at room temperature the tetrahedral orientation of the 0 K first-shell waters is entirely lost and the central cavity collapses, a process driven by the fact that the explicit water molecules prefer to make H-bonds with each other more than with the excess electron. The resulting average structure is quite similar to that produced by a noncavity mixed quantum/classical model, so that the minimalist 4-water BOMD models suffer from problems similar to those of noncavity models, such as predicting the wrong sign of the hydrated electron’s molar solvation volume. We also performed BOMD with 16 explicit water molecules plus an extra electron and PCM. We find that the inclusion of an entire second solvation shell of explicit water leads to little change in the outcome from when only four waters were used. In fact, the 16-water simulations behave much like those of water cluster anions, in which the electron localizes at the cluster surface, showing that PCM is not acceptable for use in minimalist models to describe the behavior of the bulk hydrated electron. For both the 4- and 16-water models, we investigate how the introduction of thermal motions alters the predicted absorption spectrum, vertical detachment energy, and resonance Raman spectrum of the simulated hydrated electron. We also present a set of structural criteria that can be used to numerically determine how cavity-like (or not) a particular hydrated electron model is. All of the results emphasize that the hydrated electron is a statistical object whose properties are inadequately captured using only a small number of explicit waters, and that a proper treatment of thermal fluctuations is critical to understanding the hydrated electron’s chemical and physical behavior. « less
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The journal of physical chemistry
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National Science Foundation
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