Volcano Plots Emerge from a Sea of Nonaqueous Solvents: The Law of Matching Water Affinities Extends to All Solvents

Virginia Mazzini, Vincent S.J. Craig*

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    47 Citations (Scopus)


    The properties of all electrolyte solutions, whether the solvent is aqueous or nonaqueous, are strongly dependent on the nature of the ions in solution. The consequences of these specific-ion effects are significant and manifest from biochemistry to battery technology. The "law of matching water affinities" (LMWA) has proven to be a powerful concept for understanding and predicting specific-ion effects in a wide range of systems, including the stability of proteins and colloids, solubility, the behavior of lipids, surfactants, and polyelectrolytes, and catalysis in water and ionic liquids. It provides a framework for considering how the ions of an electrolyte interact in manifestations of ion specificity and therefore represents a considerable conceptual advance on the Hofmeister or lyotropic series in understanding specific-ion effects. Underpinning the development of the law of matching water affinities were efforts to interpret the so-called "volcano plots". Volcano plots exhibit a stark inverted "V" shape trend for a range of electrolyte dependent solution properties when plotted against the difference in solvation energies of the ions that constitute the electrolyte. Here we test the hypothesis that volcano plots are also manifest in nonaqueous solvents in order to investigate whether the LMWA can be extended to nonaqueous solvents. First we examine the standard solvation energies of electrolytes in nonaqueous solvents for evidence of volcano trends and then extend this to include the solubility and the activity/osmotic coefficients of electrolytes, in order to explore real electrolyte concentrations. We find that with respect to the solvent volcano trends are universal, which brings into question the role of solvent affinity in the manifestation of specific-ion effects. We also show that the volcano trends are maintained when the ionic radii are used in place of the absolute solvation energies as the abscissa, thus showing that ion sizes, rather than the solvent affinities, fundamentally determine the manifestation of ion specificity. This leads us to propose that specific-ion effects across all solvents including water can be understood by considering the relative sizes of the anion and cation, provided the ions are spherical or tetrahedral. This is an extension of the LMWA to all solvents in which the "water affinity" is replaced with the relative size of the anion and cation.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1056-1064
    Number of pages9
    JournalACS Central Science
    Issue number8
    Publication statusPublished - 22 Aug 2018


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