Properties of free surface of water-methanol mixtures. Analysis of the truly interfacial molecular layer in computer simulation

Lívia B. Pártay, Pál Jedlovszky, Árpád Vincze, George Horvai

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

52 Citations (Scopus)


Molecular dynamics simulations of the vapor-liquid interface of water-methanol mixtures of five different compositions were performed on the canonical (N,V,T) ensemble at 298 K. In addition, the vapor-liquid interface of the two neat systems was simulated, as well. The obtained configurations were analyzed by means of the novel identification of truly interfacial molecules method, which provides a full list of the molecules that are right at the surface (i.e., at the boundary of the two phases). The molecular level roughness of the surface, the adsorption of the methanol molecules at the surface layer, the orientation of the surface molecules, the residence time of the molecules at the surface layer, as well as the surface aggregation of the molecules were analyzed in detail. Both the frequency and the amplitude of the surface roughness were found to become larger with an increasing methanol content. This effect was found to be stronger for the amplitude, which falls in the range of 2-4 Å, depending on the composition of the system. Methanol was found to be adsorbed at the surface layer, being preferentially at the humps of the molecularly rough surface. Surface methanol prefers to orient in such a way that the O-CH3 bond remains perpendicular to the macroscopic plane of the surface, pointing the methyl group to the vapor phase. The main orientational preference of the water molecules is to lie parallel to the surface. Methanol was found to remain considerably longer at the surface layer of the mixed systems than water. Thus, contrary to the fact that the residence times of the two molecules were found to be rather similar to each other at the surface of their neat liquids, the residence time of the methanol molecules was an order of magnitude larger than that of water molecules at the surface of their mixtures. A strong lateral microscopic segregation of the molecules was observed at the surface layer; the minor component of the system (irrespective of whether it was water or methanol) was found to form two-dimensional aggregates, leaving the rest of the surface empty for the major component. The effect of the vicinity of the vapor phase on the properties of the molecules was found to vanish very quickly: the composition of the second layer as well as the properties of the molecules of this layer (e.g., dynamics and orientation) did not differ considerably from those in the bulk liquid phase.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5428-5438
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Physical Chemistry B
Issue number17
Publication statusPublished - May 1 2008

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry
  • Surfaces, Coatings and Films
  • Materials Chemistry

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'Properties of free surface of water-methanol mixtures. Analysis of the truly interfacial molecular layer in computer simulation'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

  • Cite this