First hyperpolarizability of water at the air-vapor interface: a QM/MM study questions standard experimental approximations

G Le Breton and O Bonhomme and PF Brevet and E Benichou and C Loison, PHYSICAL CHEMISTRY CHEMICAL PHYSICS, 23, 24932-24941 (2021).

DOI: 10.1039/d1cp02258j

Surface Second-Harmonic Generation (S-SHG) experiments provide a unique approach to probe interfaces. One important issue for S-SHG is how to interpret the S-SHG intensities at the molecular level. Established frameworks commonly assume that each molecule emits light according to an average molecular hyperpolarizability tensor beta(-2 omega,omega,omega). However, for water molecules, this first hyperpolarizability is known to be extremely sensitive to their environment. We have investigated the molecular first hyperpolarizability of water molecules within the liquid-vapor interface, using a quantum description with explicit, inhomogeneous electrostatic embedding. The resulting average molecular first hyperpolarizability tensor depends on the distance relative to the interface, and it practically respects the Kleinman symmetry everywhere in the liquid. Within this numerical approach, based on the dipolar approximation, the water layer contributing to the Surface Second Harmonic Generation (S-SHG) intensity is less than a nanometer. The results reported here question standard interpretations based on a single, averaged hyperpolarizability for all molecules at the interface. Not only the molecular first hyperpolarizability tensor significantly depends on the distance relative to the interface, but it is also correlated to the molecular orientation. Such hyperpolarizability fluctuations may impact the S-SHG intensity emitted by an aqueous interface.

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