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Acc Chem Res. 2012 Jan 17;45(1):3-14. doi: 10.1021/ar2000088. Epub 2011 Mar 18.

Dynamics of water interacting with interfaces, molecules, and ions.

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Department of Chemistry, Stanford University, California 94305, United States.


Water is a critical component of many chemical processes, in fields as diverse as biology and geology. Water in chemical, biological, and other systems frequently occurs in very crowded situations: the confined water must interact with a variety of interfaces and molecular groups, often on a characteristic length scale of nanometers. Water's behavior in diverse environments is an important contributor to the functioning of chemical systems. In biology, water is found in cells, where it hydrates membranes and large biomolecules. In geology, interfacial water molecules can control ion adsorption and mineral dissolution. Embedded water molecules can change the structure of zeolites. In chemistry, water is an important polar solvent that is often in contact with interfaces, for example, in ion-exchange resin systems. Water is a very small molecule; its unusual properties for its size are attributable to the formation of extended hydrogen bond networks. A water molecule is similar in mass and volume to methane, but methane is a gas at room temperature, with melting and boiling points of 91 and 112 K, respectively. This is in contrast to water, with melting and boiling points of 273 and 373 K, respectively. The difference is that water forms up to four hydrogen bonds with approximately tetrahedral geometry. Water's hydrogen bond network is not static. Hydrogen bonds are constantly forming and breaking. In bulk water, the time scale for hydrogen bond randomization through concerted formation and dissociation of hydrogen bonds is approximately 2 ps. Water's rapid hydrogen bond rearrangement makes possible many of the processes that occur in water, such as protein folding and ion solvation. However, many processes involving water do not take place in pure bulk water, and water's hydrogen bond structural dynamics can be substantially influenced by the presence of, for example, interfaces, ions, and large molecules. In this Account, spectroscopic studies that have been used to explore the details of these influences are discussed. Because rearrangements of water molecules occur so quickly, ultrafast infrared experiments that probe water's hydroxyl stretching mode are useful in providing direct information about water dynamics on the appropriate time scales. Infrared polarization-selective pump-probe experiments and two-dimensional infrared (2D IR) vibrational echo experiments have been used to study the hydrogen bond dynamics of water. Water orientational relaxation, which requires hydrogen bond rearrangements, has been studied at spherical interfaces of ionic reverse micelles and compared with planar interfaces of lamellar structures composed of the same surfactants. Water orientational relaxation slows considerably at interfaces. It is found that the geometry of the interface is less important than the presence of the interface. The influence of ions is shown to slow hydrogen bond rearrangements. However, comparing an ionic interface to a neutral interface demonstrates that the chemical nature of the interface is less important than the presence of the interface. Finally, it is found that the dynamics of water at an organic interface is very similar to water molecules interacting with a large polyether.

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