Ionic solvation and association in LiCl aqueous solution: a density functional theory, polarised continuum model and molecular dynamics investigation

In this work, the ionic solvation and association behaviours in the LiCl aqueous solution were investigated using density functional theory (DFT), a polarised continuum model and classical molecular dynamics simulations. DFT calculations of LiCl(H2O)1–6,8 clusters show that contact ion pair (CIP) and solvent-shared ion pair (SSIP) conformers of LiCl(H2O)n (n ≥ 4) clusters are generally energetic both in the gas phase and in the aqueous solution. Some SSIP conformers may be slightly more stable than their CIP isomers when at least eight water molecules are incorporated in the inner hydration shells of LiCl hydrates. The transformation between CIP and SSIP conformers is easy by overcoming a small energy barrier, which mainly results from the hydration shell reorganisation of Li+. Molecular dynamics simulations show that ion pairs or ion clusters can be found in the LiCl aqueous solution, and the probability of CIP conformers or ion clusters presented in the LiCl solution generally increases with rise in temperature. However, the presentation of ion pairs or ion clusters in the LiCl aqueous solution does not inevitably lead to the nucleation of LiCl crystallisation.