Understanding the surface potential of water

J Phys Chem B. 2011 Apr 21;115(15):4369-77. doi: 10.1021/jp1116036. Epub 2011 Mar 30.


We have resolved the inconsistency in quantifying the surface potential at the liquid-vapor interface when using explicit ab initio electronic charge density and effective atomic partial charge models of liquid water. This is related, in part, to the fact that the resulting electric potentials from partial-charge models and ab initio charge distributions are quite different except for those regions of space between the molecules. We show that the electrostatic surface potential from a quantum mechanical charge distribution compares well to high-energy electron diffraction and electron holography measurements, as opposed to the comparison with electrochemical measurements. We suggest that certain regions of space be excluded when comparing computed surface potentials with electrochemical measurements. This work describes a novel interpretation of ab initio computed surface potentials through high-energy electron holography measurements as useful benchmarks toward a better understanding of electrochemistry.