Interfacial ion solvation: Obtaining the thermodynamic limit from molecular simulations

SJ Cox and PL Geissler, JOURNAL OF CHEMICAL PHYSICS, 148, 222823 (2018).

DOI: 10.1063/1.5020563

Inferring properties of macroscopic solutions from molecular simulations is complicated by the limited size of systems that can be feasibly examined with a computer. When long-ranged electrostatic interactions are involved, the resulting finite size effects can be substantial and may attenuate very slowly with increasing system size, as shown by previouswork on dilute ions in bulk aqueous solution. Here we examine corrections for such effects, with an emphasis on solvation near interfaces. Our central assumption follows the perspective of Hunenberger and McCammon J. Chem. Phys. 110, 1856 (1999): Long- wavelength solvent response underlying finite size effects should be well described by reduced models like dielectric continuum theory, whose size dependence can be calculated straightforwardly. Applied to an ion in a periodic slab of liquid coexisting with vapor, this approach yields a finite size correction for solvation free energies that differs in important ways from results previously derived for bulk solution. For a model polar solvent, we show that this new correction quantitatively accounts for the variation of solvation free energy with volume and aspect ratio of the simulation cell. Correcting periodic slab results for an aqueous system requires an additional accounting for the solvent's intrinsic charge asymmetry, which shifts electric potentials in a size-dependent manner. The accuracy of these finite size corrections establishes a simple method for a posteriori extrapolation to the thermodynamic limit and also underscores the realism of dielectric continuum theory down to the nanometer scale. Published by AIP Publishing.

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