Tampere University of Technology

TUTCRIS Research Portal

Transforming anion instability into stability: Contrasting photoionization of three protonation forms of the phosphate ion upon moving into water

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)13254-13264
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Physical Chemistry Part B
Issue number44
Publication statusPublished - 8 Nov 2012
Publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


We use photoelectron emission spectroscopy with vacuum microjet technique and quantum chemistry calculations to investigate electronic structure and stability of aqueous phosphate anions. On the basis of the measured photoelectron spectra of sodium phosphates at different pH, we report the lowest vertical ionization energies of monobasic (9.5 eV), dibasic (8.9 eV), and tribasic (8.4 eV) anions. Electron binding energies were in tandem modeled with ab initio methods, using a mixed dielectric solvation model together with up to 64 explicitly solvating water molecules. We demonstrate that two solvation layers of explicit water molecules are needed to obtain converged values of vertical ionization energies (VIEs) within this mixed solvation model, leading to very good agreement with experiment. We also show that the highly charged PO4 3- anion, which is electronically unstable in the gas phase, gains the electronic stability with about 16 water molecules, while only 2-3 water molecules are sufficient to stabilize the doubly charged phosphate anion. We also investigate the effect of ion pairing on the vertical ionization energy. In contrast to protonation (leading to a formation of covalent O-H bond), sodiation (leading to an anion···Na+ ion pair) has only a weak effect on the electron binding energy.