Exploring the aqueous vertical ionization of organic molecules by molecular simulation and liquid microjet photoelectron spectroscopy
To study the influence of aqueous solvent on the electronic energy levels of dissolved organic molecules, we conducted liquid microjet photoelectron spectroscopy (PES) measurements of the aqueous vertical ionization energies (VIEaq) of aniline (7.49 eV), veratrole alcohol (7.68 eV), and imidazole (8.51 eV). We also reanalyzed previously reported experimental PES data for phenol, phenolate, thymidine, and protonated imidazolium cation. We then simulated PE spectra by means of QM/MM molecular dynamics and EOM-IP-CCSD calculations with effective fragment potentials, used to describe the aqueous vertical ionization energies for six molecules, including aniline, phenol, veratrole alcohol, imidazole, methoxybenzene, and dimethylsulfide. Experimental and computational data enable us to decompose the VIEaq into elementary processes. For neutral compounds, the shift in VIE upon solvation, Delta VIEaq, was found to range from approximate to-0.5 to -0.91 eV. The Delta VIEaq was further explained in terms of the influence of deforming the gas phase solute into its solution phase conformation, the influence of solute hydrogen-bond donor and acceptor interactions with proximate solvent molecules, and the polarization of about 3000 outerlying solvent molecules. Among the neutral compounds, variability in Delta VIEaq appeared largely controlled by differences in solutesolvent hydrogen-bonding interactions. Detailed computational analysis of the flexible molecule veratrole alcohol reveals that the VIE is strongly dependent on molecular conformation in both gas and aqueous phases. Finally, aqueous reorganization energies of the oxidation half-cell ionization reaction were determined from experimental data or estimated from simulation for the six compounds aniline, phenol, phenolate, veratrole alcohol, dimethylsulfide, and methoxybenzene, revealing a surprising constancy of 2.06 to 2.35 eV.