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Force Field Development for Actinyl Ions via Quantum Mechanical Calculations: An Approach to Account for Many Body Solvation Effects

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journal contribution
posted on 2012-09-06, 00:00 authored by Neeraj Rai, Surya P. Tiwari, Edward J. Maginn
Advances in computational algorithms and methodologies make it possible to use highly accurate quantum mechanical calculations to develop force fields (pair-wise additive intermolecular potentials) for condensed phase simulations. Despite these advances, this approach faces numerous hurdles for the case of actinyl ions, AcO2n+ (high-oxidation-state actinide dioxo cations), mainly due to the complex electronic structure resulting from an interplay of s, p, d, and f valence orbitals. Traditional methods use a pair of molecules (“dimer”) to generate a potential energy surface (PES) for force field parametrization based on the assumption that many body polarization effects are negligible. We show that this is a poor approximation for aqueous phase uranyl ions and present an alternative approach for the development of actinyl ion force fields that includes important many body solvation effects. Force fields are developed for the UO22+ ion with the SPC/Fw, TIP3P, TIP4P, and TIP5P water models and are validated by carrying out detailed molecular simulations on the uranyl aqua ion, one of the most characterized actinide systems. It is shown that the force fields faithfully reproduce available experimental structural data and hydration free energies. Failure to account for solvation effects when generating PES leads to overbinding between UO22+ and water, resulting in incorrect hydration free energies and coordination numbers. A detailed analysis of arrangement of water molecules in the first and second solvation shell of UO22+ is presented. The use of a simple functional form involving the sum of Lennard-Jones + Coulomb potentials makes the new force field compatible with a large number of available molecular simulation engines and common force fields.