To resolve the fleeting structures of lanthanide Ln3+ aqua ions in solution, we (i) performed the first ab initio molecular dynamics (AIMD) simulations of the entire series of Ln3+ aqua ions in explicit water solvent using pseudopotentials and basis sets recently optimized for lanthanides and (ii) measured the symmetry of the hydrating waters about Ln3+ ions (Nd3+, Dy3+, Er3+, Lu3+) for the first time with extended X-ray absorption fine structure (EXAFS). EXAFS spectra were measured experimentally and generated from AIMD trajectories to directly compare simulation, which concurrently considers the electronic structure and the atomic dynamics in solution, with experiment. We performed a comprehensive evaluation of EXAFS multiple-scattering analysis (up to 6.5 Å) to measure Ln-O distances and angular correlations (i.e., symmetry) and elucidate the molecular geometry of the first hydration shell. This evaluation, in combination with symmetry-dependent L3- and L1-edge spectral analysis, shows that the AIMD simulations remarkably reproduces the experimental EXAFS data. The error in the predicted Ln-O distances is less than 0.07 Å for the later lanthanides, while we observed excellent agreement with predicted distances within experimental uncertainty for the early lanthanides. Our analysis revealed a dynamic, symmetrically disordered first coordination shell, which does not conform to a single molecular geometry for most lanthanides. This work sheds critical light on the highly elusive coordination geometry of the Ln3+ aqua ions.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Physical and Theoretical Chemistry
- Inorganic Chemistry