Micellar crystals in solution from molecular dynamics simulations

JA Anderson and CD Lorenz and A Travesset, JOURNAL OF CHEMICAL PHYSICS, 128, 184906 (2008).

DOI: 10.1063/1.2913522

Polymers with both soluble and insoluble blocks typically self-assemble into micelles, which are aggregates of a finite number of polymers where the soluble blocks shield the insoluble ones from contact with the solvent. Upon increasing concentration, these micelles often form gels that exhibit crystalline order in many systems. In this paper, we present a study of both the dynamics and the equilibrium properties of micellar crystals of triblock polymers using molecular dynamics simulations. Our results show that equilibration of single micelle degrees of freedom and crystal formation occur by polymer transfer between micelles, a process that is described by transition state theory. Near the disordered (or melting) transition, bcc lattices are favored for all triblocks studied. Lattices with fcc ordering are also found but only at lower kinetic temperatures and for triblocks with short hydrophilic blocks. Our results lead to a number of theoretical considerations and suggest a range of implications to experimental systems with a particular emphasis on Pluronic polymers. (C) 2008 American Institute of Physics.

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