A solute's partial molar volume determines its response to pressure, which can result in changes in molecular conformation or assembly state. Computing speed advances have made accurate partial molar volume evaluation in water routine, allowing for the dissection of the molecular factors underlying this significant thermodynamic variable. A recent simulation analysis of the volumes of nonpolar molecular solutes in water reported that the apparent solvent-free border thickness enshrouding these solutes grows with increasing solute size, based on the assumption the solute can be treated as an individual sphere [Biophys. Chem. 161 (2012) 46]. This suggests the solvent dewets these solutes as they grow in size. Via simulations of dewetted repulsive spherical solutes, we show that the border thicknesses of the largest non-polar molecular solutes tend towards that of a repulsive sphere. When attractive interactions are accounted for, however, the spherical solute border thicknesses fall below that of the largest molecular solutes. We demonstrate that if the molecular solutes are treated with atomic detail rather than approximated as an individual sphere, the border thickness variation is minimal. A geometric model is put forward that reproduces the inferred border thickening, indicating the implied dewetting results from a breakdown in the spherical volume approximation.
Ashbaugh, H. S., Barnett, J. W., Da Silva Moura, N., & Houser, H. E. (2016). Hydrated nonpolar solute volumes: Interplay between size, Attractiveness, and molecular structure. Biophysical Chemistry, 213, 1–5. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.bpc.2016.03.002