Aryal, Dipak; Ganesan, Venkat(The Journal of Physical Chemistry B, American Chemical Society (ACS), 2018-08-14)[Article]
The dynamics of ions and solvent molecules in polyelectrolyte desalination membranes is key to water purification technologies in which selective transport of the different components is desired. Recent experimental and our computational results have shown that nontrivial mechanisms underlie the transport properties of salt ions and water in charged polymer membranes. Explicitly, in polymer electrolytes, we found a reversal in the salt concentration dependence of the mobilities of Na+, Cl– salt ions and water molecules when compared with aqueous solutions. Motivated by such results, in this study, we have used atomistic molecular dynamics simulations to probe whether the mechanisms deduced in our earlier work apply to other salt systems and to mixtures of salts. Specifically, we report results for the ion diffusivities in aqueous KCl, MgCl2, and a 1:1 mixture of NaCl and MgCl2 salt solutions at different concentrations (ranging from 0.06 to 1 M) and investigate, at the molecular level, the mechanisms underlying the behaviors of salt and water transport properties. Our results show that diffusion of salt ions and water in charged polymer membranes are in general influenced by their association with polymer charge groups and ion pairing effects. Divalent ions are more strongly coupled with the polymeric ionic groups than monovalent salt ions and exhibit diffusivity trends that are distinct relative to monovalent salts. Further, we demonstrate that the mobilities of water molecules are influenced by coordination of water with polymer charge groups and their ion pairing tendencies and also exhibit distinct trends in monovalent and divalent salt solutions.
Chen, Yulong; Xu, Qian; Jin, Yangfu; Qian, Xin; Liu, Li; Liu, Jun; Ganesan, Venkat(Macromolecules, American Chemical Society (ACS), 2018-05-23)[Article]
Coarse-grained molecular dynamics simulations were carried out to identify the conditions under which the nanorods (NRs) side-grafted with polymer chains can assemble in end-to-end configurations in a homopolymer matrix, a structure of significant importance for optimal property characteristics. Our results demonstrate that by adjusting the grafting density and the grafted chain length, three different NR morphologies can be obtained, viz., side-by-side aggregation, end-to-end alignment and homogeneous dispersion. To understand the underlying mechanism, the chain characteristics around the NRs were systematically investigated. We find that the transition of NR morphologies from side-by-side aggregation to others is correlated to the mushroom-to-brush transition of the grafted chain configurations. At high grafting densities corresponding to the brush regime, the entropic steric repulsions between the polymer brushes prevent the NRs from approaching in side-by-side configurations. Instead, end-to-end assembly and homogeneous dispersion are observed. Within such regimes, we observe that the splaying of the grafted polymer chains at the edges of the NRs plays a critical role in determining the occurrence of end-to-end assembly. When the extent of splaying cannot overcome the van der Waals and depletion attractions between the NR ends, which occurs at relatively short graft lengths, the end-to-end assembly is preferred. We find that this manner of self-assembly will be further promoted by increasing the NR loading but is retarded by increasing the NR aspect ratio. In general, our study identifies conditions to enable the end-to-end assembly of NRs in a homopolymer matrix, enabling significant practical applications.
Samanta, Rituparna; Ganesan, Venkat(Soft Matter, Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC), 2018)[Article]
We study the structural characteristics of a system of charged nanoparticles in a neutral polymer solution while accounting for the differences in the dielectric constant between the particles, polymer and the solvent. We use a hybrid computational methodology involving a combination of single chain in mean-field simulations and the solution of the Poisson's equation for the electrostatic field. We quantify the resulting particle structural features in terms of radial distribution function among particles as a function of the dielectric contrast, particle charge, particle volume fraction and polymer concentration. In the absence of polymers, charged macroions experience increased repulsion with a lowering of the ratio of particle to solvent dielectric constant. The influence of the dielectric contrast between the particle and the solvent however diminishes with an increase in the particle volume fraction and/or its charge. In the presence of neutral polymers, similar effects manifest, but with the additional physics arising from the fact that the polymer-induced interactions are influenced by the dielectric contrast of the particle and solvent.
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