Explicit all-atom modeling of realistically sized ligand-capped nanocrystals

AP Kaushik and P Clancy, JOURNAL OF CHEMICAL PHYSICS, 136, 114702 (2012).

DOI: 10.1063/1.3689973

We present a study of an explicit all-atom representation of nanocrystals of experimentally relevant sizes (up to 6 nm), "capped" with alkyl chain ligands, in vacuum. We employ all-atom molecular dynamics simulation methods in concert with a well-tested intermolecular potential model, MM3 (molecular mechanics 3), for the studies presented here. These studies include determining the preferred conformation of an isolated single nanocrystal (NC), pairs of isolated NCs, and (presaging studies of superlattice arrays) unit cells of NC superlattices. We observe that very small NCs (3 nm) behave differently in a superlattice as compared to larger NCs (6 nm and above) due to the conformations adopted by the capping ligands on the NC surface. Short ligands adopt a uniform distribution of orientational preferences, including some that lie against the face of the nanocrystal. In contrast, longer ligands prefer to interdigitate. We also study the effect of changing ligand length and ligand coverage on the NCs on the preferred ligand configurations. Since explicit all-atom modeling constrains the maximum system size that can be studied, we discuss issues related to coarse- graining the representation of the ligands, including a comparison of two commonly used coarse-grained models. We find that care has to be exercised in the choice of coarse-grained model. The data provided by these realistically sized ligand-capped NCs, determined using explicit all-atom models, should serve as a reference standard for future models of coarse-graining ligands using united atom models, especially for self-assembly processes. (C) 2012 American Institute of Physics. http://dx.doi.org/10.1063/1.3689973

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