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On the atomistic simulation approach towards the estimation of the polymer/solvent mutual diffusion coefficient Open Access


Other title
Self diffusion
Molecular Dynamics
Poly(Vinyl Alcohol)
Type of item
Degree grantor
University of Alberta
Author or creator
Noorjahan, Abolfazl
Supervisor and department
Phillip Choi (Chemical and Materials Engineering)
Examining committee member and department
Tian Tang (Mechanical Engineering)
Philip Chan (Chemical Engineering, Ryerson University)
Jeffery Stryker (Chemistry)
Hao Zhang (Chemical and Materials Engineering)
Department of Chemical and Materials Engineering
Chemical Engineering
Date accepted
Graduation date
Doctor of Philosophy
Degree level
With increasing computational power, the multi scale simulation of materials is getting more possible. To show the ability of this method to address macro scale problems, in this work, the problem of polymer/solvent mutual diffusion was selected based on its scientific and industrial significance. Poly(vinyl alcohol) (PVA) was selected as the polymeric medium and water, ethanol and benzene as typical solvents. After careful formulation of the problem of mutual diffusion, the target variables were reduced to self diffusion coefficient of the solvent and Flory-Huggins interaction parameter of the binary system. Then, using extensive molecular dynamics simulations, the well-known OPLS-AA force field was validated for the simulation of PVA by benchmarking its predictions against a few of interesting parameters of pure PVA, namely the specific volume, glass transition temperature, Hildebrand solubility parameter and heat capacity. The results showed that the OPLS-AA force field was able to reproduce specific volumes, thermal expansion coefficients, glass transition temperatures and solubility parameters of the PVAs with different tacticities over a wide range of temperatures (200-550 K). For the heat capacities, 300% overestimations were obtained. Such overestimations were reduced significantly to about 30% by applying the quantum correction method. It is well-known that properties of PVA in the pure and solution states depend largely on the hydrogen bonding networks formed. In the context of molecular simulation, such networks are handled through the Coulombic interactions. Therefore, a good set of partial atom charges (PACs) for simulations involving PVA is highly desirable. As the original PACs in OPLS-AA have been parameterized for small molecular species (ethanol), they need to be systematically validated for PVA macromolecule. Accordingly, the PACs for PVA were calculated using a few commonly used population analysis schemes with a hope to identify an accurate set of PACs for PVA monomers. To evaluate the quality of the calculated parameters, we have benchmarked their predictions for free energy of solvation (FES) in selected solvents by molecular dynamics simulations against the ab initio calculated values. Selected solvents were water, ethanol and benzene as they covered a range of size and polarity. The best candidate for PVA/solvent simulation was found to be PACs by Merz-Singh-Kollman which will serve future simulations for the prediction of the PVA/solvent Flory-Huggins interaction parameter. In an attempt to provide more insight into the diffusion mechanism of solvents in PVA matrix, molecular dynamics simulation was used to study the diffusion of two selected penetrants, water and benzene, in PVA over a wide range of temperatures and concentrations. To help understand the effect of free volume on the diffusion behavior of water and benzene, we used the technique of Voronoi tessellation to determine key characteristics of free volume redistribution. In the case of water, we showed that it was the free volume redistribution frequency that led to an observation, previously reported in the literature, that the self-diffusion coefficient of water increases with increasing water concentration despite the fact that increase in water concentration decreases the mean fractional free volume in PVA. In the case of benzene (non-polar) diffusing in PVA (polar), we demonstrated that the failure of the Macki-Meares model was not entirely due to the dissimilarity between the intermolecular interactions. Rather, one of the reasons was the inability of the benzene molecules to break the hydrogen bonds between the PVA chains which are essential to increase the polymer segments mobility. Based on the mechanism found, the free volume model was selected as the best candidate for describing the diffusion of small molecules in polymers. However, the experimental procedure for parameterizing the model is not trivial and in fact extremely time consuming. Accordingly, following the best practice in the literature, we carried out isobaric-isothermal molecular dynamics simulations to generate thermodynamic data of a few selected polymer/solvent systems and used the data to parameterize the corresponding Sanchez-Lacombe equation of state (SLEOS). The characteristic parameters of the SLEOS were then used in the parameterization of lattice free volume (LFV) model so that diffusivity of the solvents in the polymers were then calculated. Owing to its consideration of glass transition temperature effects, LFV model was more successful in correlation of the self diffusion data the Mackie-Meares model.
This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for the purpose of private, scholarly or scientific research. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.
Citation for previous publication
Abolfazl Noorjahan, Phillip Choi, “Thermodynamic properties of poly(vinyl alcohol) with different tacticities estimated from molecular dynamics simulation”, Polymer; 54 (2013) 4212-4219.Abolfazl Noorjahan, Xiaoli Tan, Qi Liu, Murray R. Gray, Phillip Choi, “Study of Cyclohexane Diffusion in Athabasca Asphaltenes”, Energy & Fuels; 28(2014):1004–1011.Abolfazl Noorjahan, Phillip Choi, “Effect of free volume redistribution on the diffusivity of water and benzene in poly(vinyl alcohol)”, Chemical Engineering Science; In Press.Abolfazl Noorjahan, Phillip Choi, “Effect of partial atomic charges on the calculated free energy of solvation of poly(vinyl alcohol) in selected solvents”, Journal of Molecular Modeling; Accepted.Abolfazl Noorjahan, Phillip Choi, “Predicting solvent diffusion coefficient in PVA using lattice-free volume theory”, Polymer; Accepted.

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