Liquid water confined between nanoscale hydrophobic objects can become metastable with respect to its vapor at nanoscale separations. While the separations are only several molecular diameters, macroscopic theories are often invoked to interpret the thermodynamics and kinetics of water under confinement. We perform detailed rate and free energy calculations via molecular simulations in order to assess the dependence of the rate of evaporation, free energy barriers, and free energy differences between confined liquid and vapor upon object separation and compare them to the relevant macroscopic theories. At small enough separations, the rate of evaporation appears to deviate significantly from the predictions of classical nucleation theory, and we attribute such deviations to changes in the structure of the confined liquid film. However, the free energy difference between the confined liquid and vapor phases agrees quantitatively with macroscopic theory, and the free energy barrier to condensation displays qualitative agreement. Overall, the present work suggests that theories attempting to capture the kinetic behavior of nanoscale systems should incorporate structural details rather than treating it as a continuum.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- General Physics and Astronomy
- Physical and Theoretical Chemistry