Molecular structure and dynamics of nano-confined water: Computer simulations of aqueous species in clay, cement, and polymer membranes.
Molecular-level knowledge of the thermodynamic, structural, and transport properties of water confined by interfaces and nanopores of various materials is crucial for quantitative understanding and prediction of many natural and technological processes, including carbon sequestration, water desalination, nuclear waste storage, cement chemistry, fuel cell technology, etc. Computational molecular modeling is capable to significantly complement the experimental investigations of such systems by providing invaluable atomic-scale information leading to improved understanding of the specific effects of the substrate structure and composition on the structure, dynamics and reactivity of interfacial and nano-confined aqueous solutions. This paper offers a brief overview of recent efforts to quantify some of these effects for individual H2O molecules and hydrated ions confined at the interfaces and in nanopores of several typical hydrophilic and hydrophobic materials. The first molecular layer of aqueous solution at all substrates is often highly ordered, indicating reduced translational and orientational mobility of the H2O molecules. This ordering cannot be simply described as “ice-like”, but rather resembles the behavior of supercooled water or amorphous ice, although with very significant substrate-specific variations.