Dissipative particle dynamics simulations of polymer-protected nanoparticle self-assembly

JR Spaeth and IG Kevrekidis and AZ Panagiotopoulos, JOURNAL OF CHEMICAL PHYSICS, 135, 184903 (2011).

DOI: 10.1063/1.3653379

Dissipative particle dynamics simulations were used to study the effects of mixing time, solute solubility, solute and diblock copolymer concentrations, and copolymer block length on the rapid coprecipitation of polymer-protected nanoparticles. The simulations were aimed at modeling Flash NanoPrecipitation, a process in which hydrophobic solutes and amphiphilic block copolymers are dissolved in a water-miscible organic solvent and then rapidly mixed with water to produce composite nanoparticles. A previously developed model by Spaeth J. Chem. Phys. 134, 164902 (2011) was used. The model was parameterized to reproduce equilibrium and transport properties of the solvent, hydrophobic solute, and diblock copolymer. Anti-solvent mixing was modeled using time- dependent solvent-solute and solvent-copolymer interactions. We find that particle size increases with mixing time, due to the difference in solute and polymer solubilities. Increasing the solubility of the solute leads to larger nanoparticles for unfavorable solute-polymer interactions and to smaller nanoparticles for favorable solute-polymer interactions. A decrease in overall solute and polymer concentration produces smaller nanoparticles, because the difference in the diffusion coefficients of a single polymer and of larger clusters becomes more important to their relative rates of collisions under more dilute conditions. An increase in the solute-polymer ratio produces larger nanoparticles, since a collection of large particles has less surface area than a collection of small particles with the same total volume. An increase in the hydrophilic block length of the polymer leads to smaller nanoparticles, due to an enhanced ability of each polymer to shield the nanoparticle core. For unfavorable solute-polymer interactions, the nanoparticle size increases with hydrophobic block length. However, for favorable solute-polymer interactions, nanoparticle size exhibits a local minimum with respect to the hydrophobic block length. Our results provide insights on ways in which experimentally controllable parameters of the Flash NanoPrecipitation process can be used to influence aggregate size and composition during self-assembly. (C) 2011 American Institute of Physics. doi: 10.1063/1.3653379

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