Molecular simulations of self-assembly processes of amphiphiles in dilute solutions: the challenge for quantitative modelling

A Jusufi, MOLECULAR PHYSICS, 111, 3182-3192 (2013).

DOI: 10.1080/00268976.2013.826394

We report on two recent developments in molecular simulations of self- assembly processes of amphiphilic solutions. We focus on the determination of micelle formation of ionic surfactants which exhibit the archetype of self-assembling compounds in solution. The first approach is centred on the challenge in predicting micellisation properties through explicit solvent molecular dynamics simulations. Even with a coarse-grained (CG) approach and the use of highly optimised software packages run on graphics processing unit hardware, it remains in many cases computationally infeasible to directly extract the critical micelle concentration (cmc). However, combined with a recently presented theoretical mean-field model this task becomes resolved. An alternative approach to study self-assembly is through implicit solvent modelling of the surfactants. Here we review some latest results and present new ones regarding capabilities of such a modelling approach in determining the cmc, and the aggregate structures in the dilute regime, that is currently not accessible through explicit solvent simulations, neither through atomistic nor through CG approaches. A special focus is put on surfactant concentration effects and surfactant correlations quantified by scattering intensities that are compared to recently published small-angle X-ray scattering data.

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