clusters are generated in a continuous He-seeded supersonic expansion and doped with sodium atoms in a pick-up cell. By this method, clusters of the type Na(CH3OH)n are formed and subsequently photoionized by applying a tunable dye-laser system. The microsolvation process of the Na 3s electron is studied by determining the ionization potentials (IPs) of these clusters size-selectively for n = 2–40. A decrease is found from n = 2 to 6 and a constant value of 3.19 ± 0.07 eV for n = 6–40. The experimentally-determined ionization potentials are compared with ionization potentials derived from quantum-chemical calculations, assuming limiting vertical and adiabatic processes. In the first case, energy differences are calculated between the neutral and the ionized cationic clusters of the same geometry. In the second case, the ionized clusters are used in their optimized relaxed geometry. These energy differences and relative stabilities of isomeric clusters vary significantly with the applied quantum-chemical method (B3LYP or MP2). The comparison with the experiment for n = 2–7 reveals strong variations of the ionization potential with the cluster structure indicating that structural diversity and non-vertical pathways give significant signal contributions at the threshold. Based on these findings, a possible explanation for the remarkable difference in IP evolutions of methanol or water and ammonia is presented: for methanol and water a rather localized surface or semi-internal Na 3s electron is excited to either high Rydberg or more localized states below the vertical ionization threshold. This excitation is followed by a local structural relaxation that couples to an autoionization process. For small clusters with n < 6 for methanol and n < 4 for water the addition of solvent molecules leads to larger solvent–metal-ion interaction energies, which consequently lead to lower ionization thresholds. For n = 6 (methanol) and n = 4 (water) this effect comes to a halt, which may be connected with the completion of the first cationic solvation shell limiting the release of local relaxation energy. For Na(NH3)n, a largely delocalized and internal electron is excited to autoionizing electronic states, a process that is no longer local and consequently may depend on cluster size up to very large n.
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