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Dipolar Dispersion Forces in Water–Methanol Mixtures: Enhancement of Water Interactions upon Dilution Drives Self-Association

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posted on 2022-08-17, 13:40 authored by Quinn A. Besford, Willem Van den Heuvel, Andrew J. Christofferson
Mixtures of short-chain alcohols and water produce anomalous thermodynamic and structural quantities, including molecular segregation into water-rich and alcohol-rich components. Herein, we used molecular dynamics simulations with polarizable models to investigate interactions that could drive the self-association of water molecules in mixtures with methanol (MeOH). As water was diluted with MeOH, significant changes in the distribution of molecules and solvation properties occurred, where water exhibited a clear preference for self-association. When common structural quantities were analyzed, it was found that there was a clear reduction in water–water hydrogen bonding and tetrahedral order (both in terms of typical bulk behavior), contrary to the observed water self-association. However, when dipolar dispersion forces between all molecules as a function of system composition were analyzed, it was found that water–water dipolar interactions became significantly stronger with dilution (6-fold stronger interaction in 75% MeOH compared to 0% MeOH). This was only observed for water, where MeOH–MeOH interactions became weaker as the systems were more dilute in MeOH. These forces result from specific dipole orientations, likely occurring to adopt lower energy configurations (i.e., head-to-tail or antiparallel). For water, this may result from lost other interactions (e.g., hydrogen bonding), leading to more rotational freedom between the dipole moments. These intriguing changes in dipolar interactions, which directly result from structural changes, can therefore explain, in part, the driving force for water self-association in MeOH–water mixtures.

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