Understanding the nature of ionic hydration at a fundamental level has eluded scientists despite intense interest for nearly a century. In particular, the microscopic origins of the asymmetry of ion solvation thermodynamics with respect to the sign of the ionic charge remains a mystery. Here, we determine the response of accurate quantum mechanical water models to strong nanoscale solvation forces arising from excluded volumes and ionic electrostatic fields. This is compared to the predictions of two important limiting classes of classical models of water with fixed point changes, differing in their treatment of "lone pair" electrons. Using the quantum water model as our standard of accuracy, we find that a single fixed classical treatment of lone pair electrons cannot accurately describe solvation of both apolar and cationic solutes, emphasizing the need for a more flexible description of local electronic effects in solvation processes. However, we explicitly show that all water models studied respond to weak long-ranged electrostatic perturbations in a manner that follows macroscopic dielectric continuum models, as would be expected. We emphasize the importance of these findings in the context of realistic ion models, using density functional theory and empirical models, and discuss the implications of our results for quantitatively accurate reduced descriptions of solvation in dielectric media.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Physical and Theoretical Chemistry
- Surfaces, Coatings and Films
- Materials Chemistry