Authors: Rodriguez-Segundo, Raul; Arismendi-Arrieta, Daniel J.; Prosmiti, Rita


Publication date: 2022/03/01

DOI: 10.3390/molecules27051654

Abstract: Dissolved ions in aqueous media are ubiquitous in many physicochemical processes, with a direct impact on research fields, such as chemistry, climate, biology, and industry. Ions play a crucial role in the structure of the surrounding network of water molecules as they can either weaken or strengthen it. Gaining a thorough understanding of the underlying forces from small clusters to bulk solutions is still challenging, which motivates further investigations. Through a systematic analysis of the interaction energies obtained from high-level electronic structure methodologies, we assessed various dispersion-corrected density functional approaches, as well as ab initio-based data-driven potential models for halide ion-water clusters. We introduced an active learning scheme to automate the generation of optimally weighted datasets, required for the development of efficient bottom-up anion-water models. Using an evolutionary programming procedure, we determined optimized and reference configurations for such polarizable and first-principles-based representation of the potentials, and we analyzed their structural characteristics and energetics in comparison with estimates from DF-MP2 and DFT+D quantum chemistry computations. Moreover, we presented new benchmark datasets, considering both equilibrium and non-equilibrium configurations of higher-order species with an increasing number of water molecules up to 54 for each F, Cl, Br, and I anions, and we proposed a validation protocol to cross-check methods and approaches. In this way, we aim to improve the predictive ability of future molecular computer simulations for determining the ongoing conflicting distribution of different ions in aqueous environments, as well as the transition from nanoscale clusters to macroscopic condensed phases.