Physical Chemistry

Solvent dynamics of aqueous halides before and after photoionization



Electron transfer reactions can be strongly influenced by solvent dynamics. We study the photoionization of halides in water as a model system for such reactions. There are no internal nuclear degrees of freedom in the solute, allowing to uniquely identify the dynamics of the solvent. We simulate the equilibrium solvent dynamics for Cl$^-$, Br$^-$, I$^-$ and their respective neutral atoms in water, comparing quantum mechanical/molecular mechanical (QM/MM) and classical molecular dynamics (MD) methods. On the basis of the obtained configurations, we calculate the extended X-Ray fine structure (EXAFS) spectra rigorously based on the MD snapshots and compare in detail with other theoretical and experimental results available in the literature. We find our EXAFS spectra based on QM/MM MD simulations in good agreement with their experimental counterparts for the ions. Classical MD simulations for the ions lead to EXAFS spectra that agree equally well with the experiment when it comes to the oscillatory period of the signal, even though they differ from the QM/MM radial distribution functions extracted from the MD. The amplitude is, however, considerably overestimated. This suggests that to judge the reliability of theoretical simulation methods or to elucidate fine details of the atomistic dynamics of the solvent based on EXAFS spectra, the amplitude and not only the oscillatory period need to be considered. If simulations fail qualitatively, as does the classical MD for the aqueous halogen atoms, the resulting EXAFS will also be strongly affected in both oscillatory period and amplitude. The good reliability of QM/MM-based EXAFS simulations, together with clear qualitative differences in the EXAFS spectra found between halides and their atomic counterparts, suggests that a combined theory and experimental EXAFS approach is suitable for elucidating the nonequilibrium solvent dynamics in the photoionization of halides, and possibly also for electron transfer reactions in more complex systems.


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Supplementary material

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Supporting Information
In the Supporting Information, we show the calculated element-specific EXAFS spectra when only the respective element sub-class of the water molecule is included.