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Ion Dissociation Dynamics in an Aqueous Premelting Layer


Using molecular dynamics simulations and methods of importance sampling, we study the thermodynamics and dynamics of sodium chloride in the aqueous premelting layer formed spontaneously at the interface between ice and its vapor. We uncover a hierarchy of time scales that characterize the relaxation dynamics of this system, spanning the picoseconds of ionic motion to the tens or hundreds of nanoseconds associated with fluctuations of the liquid-crystal interface in their presence. We find that ions distort both local interfaces, incurring restoring forces that result in the ions preferentially residing in the middle of the layer. While ion pair dissociation is thermodynamically favorable, these structural and dynamic effects cause its rate to vary by over an order of magnitude through the layer, with a maximum rate significantly depressed from the corresponding bulk value. The solvation environment of ions in the premelting layer is distinct from that in a bulk liquid, being dominated by slow reorganization of water molecules and a water structure intermediate between ice and its melt.

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