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Quantifying Uncertainties in Solvation Procedures for Modeling Aqueous Phase Reaction Mechanisms



Kathleen Schwarz, Alex Maldonado, Tae Hoon Choi, Frank Eckert, Satoshi Hagiwara, Minoru Otani, Ravishankar Sundararaman, John Keith


Computational quantum chemistry provides fundamental chemical and physical insights into solvated reaction mechanisms across many areas of chemistry, especially in homogeneous and heterogeneous renewable energy catalysis. Such reactions may depend on explicit interactions with ions and solvent molecules that are nontrivial to characterize. Rigorously modeling explicit solvent effects with molecular dynamics usually brings steep computational costs while the performance of continuum solvent models such as polarizable continuum model (PCM), charge-asymmetric nonlocally determined local-electric (CANDLE), conductor-like screening model for real solvents (COSMO-RS), and effective screening medium method with the reference interaction site model (ESM-RISM) are less well understood for reaction mechanisms. Here, we revisit a fundamental aqueous hydride transfer reaction—carbon dioxide (CO2) reduction by sodium borohydride (NaBH4)—as a test case to evaluate how different solvent models perform in aqueous phase charge migrations that would be relevant to renewable energy catalysis mechanisms. For this system, quantum mechanics/molecular mechanics (QM/MM) molecular dynamics simulations almost exactly reproduced energy profiles from QM simulations, and the Na+ counterion in the QM/MM simulations plays an insignificant role over ensemble averaged trajectories that describe the reaction pathway. However, solvent models used on static calculations gave much more variability in data depending on whether the system was modeled using explicit solvent shells and/or the counterion. We pinpoint this variability due to unphysical descriptions of charge-separated states in the gas phase (i.e., self-interaction errors), and we show that using more accurate hybrid functionals and/or explicit solvent shells lessens these errors. This work closes with recommended procedures for treating solvation in future computational efforts in studying renewable energy catalysis mechanisms.
The Journal of Physical Chemistry A


Schwarz, K. , Maldonado, A. , Choi, T. , Eckert, F. , Hagiwara, S. , Otani, M. , Sundararaman, R. and Keith, J. (2021), Quantifying Uncertainties in Solvation Procedures for Modeling Aqueous Phase Reaction Mechanisms, The Journal of Physical Chemistry A, [online], (Accessed July 15, 2024)


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Created January 4, 2021, Updated March 2, 2023