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Using Grand Canonical Monte Carlo Simulations to Understand the Role of Interfacial Fluctuations on Solvation at the Water–Vapor Interface

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journal contribution
posted on 17.08.2016, 00:00 authored by Kaustubh Rane, Nico F. A. van der Vegt
The present work investigates the effect of interfacial fluctuations (predominantly capillary wave-like fluctuations) on the solvation free energy (Δμ) of a monatomic solute at the water–vapor interface. We introduce a grand-canonical-ensemble-based simulation approach that quantifies the contribution of interfacial fluctuations to Δμ. This approach is used to understand how the above contribution depends on the strength of dispersive and electrostatic solute-water interactions at the temperature of 400 K. At this temperature, we observe that interfacial fluctuations do play a role in the variation of Δμ with the strength of the electrostatic solute–water interaction. We also use grand canonical simulations to further investigate how interfacial fluctuations affect the propensity of the solute toward the water–vapor interface. To this end, we track a quantity called the interface potential (surface excess free energy) with the number of water molecules. With increasing number of water molecules, the liquid–vapor interface moves across a solute, which is kept at a fixed position in the simulation. Hence, the dependence of the interface potential on the number of waters models the process of moving the solute through the water–vapor interface. We analyze the change of the interface potential with the number of water molecules to explain that solute-induced changes in the interfacial fluctuations, like the pinning of capillary-wave-like undulations, do not play any role in the propensity of solutes toward water–vapor interfaces. The above analysis also shows that the dampening of interfacial fluctuations accompanies the adsorption of any solute at the liquid–vapor interface, irrespective of the chemical nature of the solute and solvent. However, such a correlation does not imply that dampening of fluctuations causes adsorption.

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