Water cluster anions, (H(2)O)(N)(-), are examined using mixed quantum/classical molecular dynamics based on a one-electron pseudopotential model that incorporates many-body polarization and predicts vertical electron detachment energies (VDEs) with an accuracy of ~0.1 eV. By varying the initial conditions under which the clusters are formed, we are able to identify four distinct isomer types that exhibit different size-dependent VDEs. On the basis of a strong correlation between the electron's radius of gyration and its optical absorption maximum, and extrapolating to the bulk limit (N → ∞), our analysis supports the assignment of the "isomer Ib" data series, observed in photoelectron spectra of very cold clusters, as arising from cavity-bound (H(2)O)(N)(-) cluster isomers. The "isomer I" data reported in warmer experiments are assigned to surface-bound isomers in smaller clusters, transitioning to partially embedded isomers in larger clusters. The partially embedded isomers are characterized by a partially formed solvent cavity at the cluster surface, and they are spectroscopically quite similar to internalized cavity isomers. These assignments are consistent with various experimental data, and our theoretical characterization of these isomers sheds new light on a long-standing assignment problem.
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