Hydration Structure of Na+ and K+ Ions in Solution Predicted by Data-Driven Many-Body Potentials

28 October 2022, Version 2
This content is a preprint and has not undergone peer review at the time of posting.


The hydration structure of Na+ and K+ ions in solution is systematically investigated using a hierarchy of molecular models that progressively include more accurate representations of many-body interactions. We found that a conventional empirical pairwise additive force field that is commonly used in biomolecular simulations is unable to reproduce the extended X-ray absorption fine structure (EXAFS) spectra for both ions. In contrast, progressive inclusion of many-body effects rigorously derived from the many-body expansion of the energy allows the MB-nrg potential energy functions (PEFs) to achieve nearly quantitative agreement with the experimental EXAFS spectra, thus enabling the development of a molecular-level picture of the hydration structure of both Na+ and K+ in solution. Since the MB-nrg PEFs have already been shown to accurately describe isomeric equilibria and vibrational spectra of small ion–water clusters in the gas phase, the present study demonstrates that the MB-nrg PEFs effectively represent the long-sought-after models able to correctly predict the properties of ionic aqueous systems from the gas to the liquid phase, which has so far remained elusive.


ion hydration
many-body interactions
X-ray spectroscopy
data-driven models
aqueous solutions
statistical mechanics
quantum mechanics


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