Significance of atomic-scale defects in flexible surfaces on local solvent and ion behaviour†
Many factors can affect the course of heterogeneous nucleation, such as surface chemistry, flexibility and topology, substrate concentration and solubility. Atomic-scale defects are rarely investigated in detail and are often considered to be unimportant surface features. In this work, we set out to investigate the significance of atomic-scale defects in a flexible self-assembled monolayer surface for the behaviour of clusters of Ca2+ and CO32− ions in water. To this end, we use molecular dynamics simulations to estimate the diffusion coefficients of ion clusters at different topological surface features and obtain ionic radial distribution functions around features of interest. Well-tempered metadynamics is used to gain insight into the free energy of ions around selected surface defects. We find that certain defects, which we refer to as active defects, can impair ionic surface diffusion, as well as affect the diffusion of ions in close proximity to the surface feature in question. Our findings suggest that this effect can result in an ability of such topological features to promote ion clustering and increase local ionic concentration at specific surface sites. The work reported here shows how the presence of small atomic-scale defects can affect the role of a surface in the process of heterogeneous nucleation and contributes towards a rational definition of surfaces as effective nucleating agents.
- This article is part of the themed collection: Understanding Crystallisation