2998 , 2017-08 , Taylor & Francis
Water-mediated ion-pair dissociation is studied by molecular dynamics simulations of NaCl in water. Multidimensional free-energy analysis clarifies the relation between two essential solvent coordinates: the water coordination number and water-bridge formation. These two are related in a complex way. Both are necessary to describe ion-pair dissociation. The mechanism constructed with both solvent variables clearly shows the individual roles. The water coordination number is critical for starting ion-pair dissociation. Water-bridge formation is also important because it increases the likelihood of ion-pair dissociation by reducing the dissociation free-energy barrier. Additional Ca-Cl and NH4-Cl calculations show that these conclusions are unaffected by changes in the ion charge and shape. The present results will contribute to future explorations of many other molecular events such as surface water exchange and protein-ligand dissociation because the same mechanism is involved in such events.