Grand-canonical approach to density functional theory of electrocatalytic systems: Thermodynamics of solid-liquid interfaces at constant ion and electrode potentials

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Properties of solid-liquid interfaces are of immense importance for electrocatalytic and electrochemical systems, but modeling such interfaces at the atomic level presents a serious challenge and approaches beyond standard methodologies are needed. An atomistic computational scheme needs to treat at least part of the system quantum mechanically to describe adsorption and reactions, while the entire system is in thermal equilibrium. The experimentally relevant macroscopic control variables are temperature, electrode potential, and the choice of the solvent and ions, and these need to be explicitly included in the computational model as well; this calls for a thermodynamic ensemble with fixed ion and electrode potentials. In this work, a general framework within density functional theory (DFT) with fixed electron and ion chemical potentials in the grand canonical (GC) ensemble is established for modeling electrocatalytic and electrochemical interfaces. Starting from a fully quantum mechanical description of multi-component GC-DFT for nuclei and electrons, a systematic coarse-graining is employed to establish various computational schemes including (i) the combination of classical and electronic DFTs within the GC ensemble and (ii) on the simplest level a chemically and physically sound way to obtain various (modified) Poisson-Boltzmann (mPB) implicit solvent models. The detailed and rigorous derivation clearly establishes which approximations are needed for coarse-graining as well as highlights which details and interactions are omitted in vein of computational feasibility. The transparent approximations also allow removing some of the constraints and coarse-graining if needed. We implement various mPB models within a linear dielectric continuum in the GPAW code and test their capabilities to model capacitance of electrochemical interfaces as well as study different approaches for modeling partly periodic charged systems. Our rigorous and well-defined DFT coarse-graining scheme to continuum electrolytes highlights the inadequacy of current linear dielectric models for treating properties of the electrochemical interface.

Original languageEnglish
Article number041706
JournalJournal of Chemical Physics
Number of pages23
Publication statusPublished - 2019

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