We have investigated the thermodynamics of sulfuric acid dimer hydration using ab initio quantum mechanical methods. For (H2SO4)2(H2O)n where n = 0−6, we employed high-level ab initio calculations to locate the most stable minima for each cluster size. The results presented herein yield a detailed understanding of the first deprotonation of sulfuric acid as a function of temperature for a system consisting of two sulfuric acid molecules and up to six waters. At 0 K, a cluster of two sulfuric acid molecules and one water remains undissociated. Addition of a second water begins the deprotonation of the first sulfuric acid leading to the di-ionic species (the bisulfate anion HSO4−, the hydronium cation H3O+, an undissociated sulfuric acid molecule, and a water). Upon the addition of a third water molecule, the second sulfuric acid molecule begins to dissociate. For the (H2SO4)2(H2O)3 cluster, the di-ionic cluster is a few kcal mol−1 more stable than the neutral cluster, which is just slightly more stable than the tetra-ionic cluster (two bisulfate anions, two hydronium cations, and one water). With four water molecules, the tetra-ionic cluster, (HSO4−)2(H3O+)2(H2O)2, becomes as favorable as the di-ionic cluster H2SO4(HSO4−)(H3O+)(H2O)3 at 0 K. Increasing the temperature favors the undissociated clusters, and at room temperature we predict that the di-ionic species is slightly more favorable than the neutral cluster once three waters have been added to the cluster. The tetra-ionic species competes with the di-ionic species once five waters have been added to the cluster. The thermodynamics of stepwise hydration of sulfuric acid dimer is similar to that of the monomer; it is favorable up to n = 4−5 at 298 K. A much more thermodynamically favorable pathway forming sulfuric acid dimer hydrates is through the combination of sulfuric acid monomer hydrates, but the low concentration of sulfuric acid relative to water vapor at ambient conditions limits that process.
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