Hydration of clays at the molecular scale: the promising perspective of classical density functional theory

G Jeanmairet and V Marry and M Levesque and B Rotenberg and D Borgis, MOLECULAR PHYSICS, 112, 1320-1329 (2014).

DOI: 10.1080/00268976.2014.899647

We report here how the hydration of complex surfaces can be efficiently studied, thanks to recent advances in classical molecular density functional theory. This is illustrated on the example of the pyrophyllite clay. After presenting the most recent advances, we show that the strength of this implicit method is that: (1) it is in quantitative or semi-quantitative agreement with reference all-atom simulations (molecular dynamics here) for both the solvation structure and energetics, and (2) the computational cost is two to three orders of magnitude less than in explicit methods. The method remains imperfect in that it locally overestimates the polarisation of water close to hydrophylic sites of the clay. The high numerical efficiency of the method is illustrated and exploited to carry out a systematic study of the electrostatic and van der Waals components of the surface-solvent interactions within the most popular force field for clays, CLAYFF. Hydration structure and energetics are found to weakly depend upon the electrostatics. We conclude on the consequences of such findings on future force-field development.

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