Spherically Symmetric Solvent is Sufficient to Explain the LCST Mechanism in Polymer Solutions

S Bharadwaj and PBS Kumar and S Komura and AP Deshpande, MACROMOLECULAR THEORY AND SIMULATIONS, 26, UNSP 1600073 (2017).

DOI: 10.1002/mats.201600073

The mechanism of the lower critical solution temperature (LCST) in thermoresponsive polymer solutions has been studied by means of a coarse-grained single polymer chain simulation and a theoretical approach. The simulation model includes solvent explicitly and thus accounts for solvent interactions and entropy directly. The theoretical model consists of a single chain polymer in an implicit solvent where the effect of solvent is included through the intrapolymer solvophobic potential proposed by Kolomeisky and Widom. The results of this study indicate that the LCST behavior is determined by the competition between the mean energy difference between the bulk and bound solvent, and the entropy loss due to the bound solvent. At low temperatures, solvent molecules are bound to the polymer and the solvophobicity of the polymer is screened, resulting in a coiled state. At high temperatures the entropy loss due to bound solvent offsets the energy gain due to binding which causes the solvent molecules to unbind, leading to the collapse of the polymer chain to a globular state. Furthermore, the coarse-grained nature of these models indicates that mean interaction energies are sufficient to explain LCST in comparison to specific solvent structural arrangements.

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