Characterizing the Mechanisms of Ca and Mg Carbonate Ion-Pair Formation with Multi-Level Molecular Dynamics/Quantum Mechanics Simulations

Jan-Niklas Boyn and Emily A. Carter, J. Phys. Chem. B, 127, 50, 10824–10832 (2023)

The carbonate minerals of Ca and Mg are abundant throughout the lithosphere and have recently garnered significant research interest as possible long-term carbon sinks in the sequestration of atmospheric carbon dioxide. Nonetheless, an understanding of the atomic-level processes comprising their mineralization remains limited. Here, we characterize and contrast the mechanisms of contact ion-pair formation in aqueous Ca and Mg carbonate systems, which represents the most fundamental step leading to the formation of their mineral solids. Utilizing multilevel embedded correlated wavefunction-based ab initio molecular dynamics/quantum mechanics simulations, we characterize not only the dynamics of these processes but also factors arising from the electronic structure of the involved species, revealing further details of the fundamentally different mechanisms for the interconversion between the contact ion-pairs and solvent-shared ion-pairs of Ca versus Mg carbonate.