Molecular Dynamics Simulations of Star Polymeric Molecules with Diblock Arms, a Comparative Study

WC Swope and AC Carr and AJ Parker and J Sly and RD Miller and JE Rice, JOURNAL OF CHEMICAL THEORY AND COMPUTATION, 8, 3733-3749 (2012).

DOI: 10.1021/ct300188e

We have performed all atom explicit solvent molecular dynamics simulations of three different star polymeric systems in water, each star molecule consisting of 16 diblock copolymer arms bound to a small adamantane core. The arms of each system consist of an inner "hydrophobic" block (either polylactide, polyvalerolactone, or polyethylene) and an outer hydrophilic block (polyethylene oxide, PEO). These models exhibit unusual structure very close to the core (clearly an artifact of our model) but which we believe becomes "normal" or bulk- like at relatively short distances from this core. We report on a number of temperature-dependent thermodynamic (structural/energetic) properties as well as kinetic properties. Our observations suggest that under physiological conditions, the hydrophobic regions of these systems may be solid and glassy, with only rare and shallow penetration by water, and that a sharp boundary exists between the hydrophobic cores and either the PEO or water. The PEO in these models is seen to be fully water-solvated at low temperatures but tends to phase separate from water as the temperature is increased, reminiscent of a lower critical solution temperature exhibited by PEO-water mixtures. Water penetration concentration and depth is composition and temperature dependent with greater water penetration for the most ester-rich star polymer.

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