Fast equilibration protocol for million atom systems of highly entangled linear polyethylene chains

YR Sliozberg and M Kroger and TL Chantawansri, JOURNAL OF CHEMICAL PHYSICS, 144, 154901 (2016).

DOI: 10.1063/1.4946802

Equilibrated systems of entangled polymer melts cannot be produced using direct brute force equilibration due to the slow reptation dynamics exhibited by high molecular weight chains. Instead, these dense systems are produced using computational techniques such as Monte Carlo- Molecular Dynamics hybrid algorithms, though the use of soft potentials has also shown promise mainly for coarse-grained polymeric systems. Through the use of soft-potentials, the melt can be equilibrated via molecular dynamics at intermediate and long length scales prior to switching to a Lennard-Jones potential. We will outline two different equilibration protocols, which use various degrees of information to produce the starting configurations. In one protocol, we use only the equilibrium bond angle, bond length, and target density during the construction of the simulation cell, where the information is obtained from available experimental data and extracted from the force field without performing any prior simulation. In the second protocol, we moreover utilize the equilibrium radial distribution function and dihedral angle distribution. This information can be obtained from experimental data or from a simulation of short unentangled chains. Both methods can be used to prepare equilibrated and highly entangled systems, but the second protocol is much more computationally efficient. These systems can be strictly monodisperse or optionally polydisperse depending on the starting chain distribution. Our protocols, which utilize a soft-core harmonic potential, will be applied for the first time to equilibrate a million particle system of polyethylene chains consisting of 1000 united atoms at various temperatures. Calculations of structural and entanglement properties demonstrate that this method can be used as an alternative towards the generation of entangled equilibrium structures. Published by AIP Publishing.

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