We use polarization-resolved mid-infrared pump-probe spectroscopy to study the aqueous solvation of proline and N-methylacetamide. These molecules serve as models to study the solvation of proteins. We monitor the orientational dynamics of partly deuterated water molecules (HDO) that are present at a low concentration in the water. We find that the OD vibration of HDO relaxes via an intermediate level, that is characterized by a hydrogen-bond that is stronger than in the ground state. With increasing concentration the lifetime of the excited state increases from 1.8 ps to 2.4 ps and the lifetime of the intermediate level from 0.6 ps to 1.0 ps. Regarding the orientational dynamics we observe biexponential behavior, which finds its origin in the presence of two classes of water molecules. There is a fraction of water molecules that has bulk-like orientational dynamics (trot = 2.5 ps) and a fraction of immobilized water molecules (trot > 10 ps). The relative abundance of the two fractions is determined by the nature and concentration of the solute. We find that the hydrophobic solute groups are responsible for the immobilization of water molecules. Every methyl group causes the immobilization of approximately 4 water OH groups. The hydrophilic solute groups, on the other hand, do not hinder the reorientation and the water molecules solvating them reorient with the same rate as in the bulk liquid.

Chem. Phys.
Ultrafast Spectroscopy

Rezus, Y., & Bakker, H. (2008). Femtosecond spectroscopic study of the solvation of amphiphilic molecules by water. Chem. Phys., 350(1-3), 87–93. doi:10.1016/j.chemphys.2008.01.008