Molecular dynamics simulation study of distribution and dynamics of aqueous solutions of uranyl ions: the effect of varying temperature and concentration
Investigating the characteristics of actinyl ions has been of great interest due to their direct relevance in the nuclear fuel cycle. All-atom molecular dynamics simulations have been employed to study the orientational structure and dynamics of aqueous solutions of uranyl ions of various concentrations. The orientational structure of water around a uranyl ion has been thoroughly investigated by calculating different orientational probability distributions corresponding to different molecular axes of water. The orientational distribution of water molecules in the first coordination shell of a uranyl ion is found to be markedly different from that in bulk water. Analysis of counterion distribution around the uranyl ion reveals the presence of nitrate ions along with water molecules in the first solvation shell. From the comparison of the number of coordinated water and nitrate ions at various uranyl nitrate concentrations, it is evident that these two species compete for occupying the first solvation shell of the uranyl ion. Orientational dynamics of water molecules about different molecular axes of water in the vicinity of uranyl ions have also been investigated and decreasing orientational mobility of water with increasing uranyl concentration has been found. However, it is observed that the orientational dynamics remains more or less the same whether we consider all the water molecules in the aqueous solution or only the solvation shell water molecules. The effect of temperature on the translational and orientational characteristics of the aqueous uranyl solutions has also been studied in detail.