Polar solvents often exert a dramatic influence on reactions in solution. Equilibrium aspects of this influence involve differential solvation of reactants compared to the transition state that lead to alteration of the free-energy barrier to reaction. Such effects are well known, and often give rise changes in reaction rates of many orders of magnitude. Less well understood are effects arising from non-equilibrium, dynamical aspects of solvation. During the course of reaction, charge is rapidly redistributed among reactants. How the reaction couples to its solvent environment depends critically on how fast the solvent can respond to these changes in reactant charge distribution. In this article the dynamics of solvation in polar liquids and the influence of this dynamics on electrontransfer reactions are discussed. A molecular picture suggests that polar solvation occurs on multiple time scales as a result of the involvement of different types of solvent motion. A hierarchy of models from a homogeneous continuum model to one incorporating molecular aspects of solvation, combined with computer simulations, gives insight into the underlying dynamics. Experimental measures of solvation dynamics from picosecond and subpicosecond time-dependent Stokes shift studies are compared with the predictions of theoretical models. The implication of these results for electron-transfer reactions in solution are then briefly considered.
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