Phenolic Polymer Solvation in Water and Ethylene Glycol, I: Molecular Dynamics Simulations

EW Bucholz and JB Haskins and JD Monk and CW Bauschlicher and JW Lawson, JOURNAL OF PHYSICAL CHEMISTRY B, 121, 2839-2851 (2017).

DOI: 10.1021/acs.jpcb.7b00326

Interactions between pre-cured phenolic polymer chains and a solvent have a significant impact on the structure and properties of the final postcured phenolic resin. Developing an understanding of the nature of these interactions is important and will aid in the selection of the proper solvent that will lead to the desired final product. Here, we investigate the role of the phenolic chain structure and the solvent type on the overall solvation performance of;the system through molecular dynamics simulations. Two types of solvents are considered: ethylene glycol (EGL) and H2O. In addition, three phenolic chain structures are considered, including two novolac-type chains with either an ortho-ortho (OON) or an ortho para (OPN) backbone network and a resole-type (RES) chain with an ortho-ortho network. Each system is characterized through a structural analysis of the solvation shell and the hydrogen-bonding environment as well as through a quantification of the solvation free energy along with partitioned interaction energies between specific molecular species. The combination of simulations and the analyses indicate that EGL provides a higher solvation free energy than H2O due to more energetically favorable hydrophilic interactions as. well as favorable hydrophobic interactions between CH element groups. In addition, the phenolic chain structure significantly affects the solvation performance, with OON having limited intermolecular hydrogen-bond formations, while OPN and RES interact more favorably with the solvent molecules. The results suggest that a resole-type phenolic chain with an ortho para network should have the best solvation performance in EGL, H2O, and other similar solvents.

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