Bending Vibration-Governed Solvation Dynamics of an Excess Electron in Liquid Acetonitrile Revealed by Ab Initio Molecular Dynamics Simulation

We report an <i>ab initio</i> molecular dynamics simulation study of the solvation and dynamics of an excess electron in liquid acetonitrile (ACN). Four families of states are observed: a diffusely solvated state and three ACN core-localized states with monomer core, quasi-dimer (π*-Rydberg mode) core, and dual-core/dimer core (a coupled dual-core). These core localized states cannot be simply described as the corresponding anions because only a part of the excess electron resides in the core molecule(s). The quasi-dimer core state actually is a mixture that features cooperative excess electron capture by the π* and Rydberg orbitals of two ACNs. Well-defined dimer anion and solvated electron cavity were not observed in the 5–10 ps simulations, which may be attributed to slow dynamics of the formation of the dimer anion and difficulty of the formation of a cavity in such a fluxional medium. All of the above observed states have near-IR absorptions and thus can be regarded as the solvated electron states but with different structures, which can interpret the experimentally observed IR band. These states undergo continuous conversions via a combination of long-lasting breathing oscillation and core switching, characterized by highly cooperative oscillations of the electron cloud volume and vertical detachment energy. The quasi-dimer core and diffusely solvated states dominate the time evolution, with the monomer core and dual-core/dimer core states occurring occasionally during the breathing and core switching processes, respectively. All these oscillations and core switchings are governed by a combination of the electron-impacted bending vibration of the core ACN molecule(s) and thermal fluctuations.