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Microsolvation of the Sodium and Iodide Ions and Their Ion Pair in Acetonitrile Clusters:  A Theoretical Study

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journal contribution
posted on 17.01.2008, 00:00 by Tao-Nhân V. Nguyen, Sean R. Hughes, Gilles H. Peslherbe
The structural and thermodynamic properties of Na+(CH3CN)n, I-(CH3CN)n, and NaI(CH3CN)n clusters have been investigated by means of room-temperature Monte Carlo simulations with model potentials developed to reproduce the properties of small clusters predicted by quantum chemistry. Ions are found to adopt an interior solvation shell structure, with a first solvation shell containing ∼6 and ∼8 acetonitrile molecules for large Na+(CH3CN)n and I-(CH3CN)n clusters, respectively. Structural features of Na+(CH3CN)n are found to be similar to those of Na+(H2O)n clusters, but those of I-(CH3CN)n contrast with those of I-(H2O)n, for which “surface” solvation structures were observed. The potential of mean force calculations demonstrates that the NaI ion pair is thermodynamically stable with respect to ground-state ionic dissociation in acetonitrile clusters. The properties of NaI(CH3CN)n clusters exhibit some similarities with NaI(H2O)n clusters, with the existence of contact ion pair and solvent-separated ion pair structures, but, in contrast to water clusters, both types of ion pairs adopt a well-defined interior ionic solvation shell structure in acetonitrile clusters. Whereas contact ion pair species are thermodynamically favored in small clusters, solvent-separated ion pairs tend to become thermodynamically more stable above a cluster size of ∼26. Hence, ground-state charge separation appears to occur at larger cluster sizes for acetonitrile clusters than for water clusters. We propose that the lack of a large Na+(CH3CN)n product signal in NaI(CH3CN)n multiphoton ionization experiments could arise from extensive stabilization of the ground ionic state by the solvent and possible inhibition of the photoexcitation mechanism, which may be less pronounced for NaI(H2O)n clusters because of surface solvation structures. Alternatively, increased solvent evaporation resulting from larger excess energies upon photoexcitation or major solvent reorganization on the ionized state could account for the observed solvent-selectivity in NaI cluster multiphoton ionization.