From polymer collapse to confined fluids : investigating the implications of nterfacial structuring
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In the first part of this thesis, we present results from extensive molecular dynamics simulations of the collapse transitions of hydrophobic polymers in explicit water. The focus is to understand the roles that curvature and interactions associated with the polymer-water “interface” have on collapse thermodynamics. We show that model hydrophobic polymers can have parabolic, protein-like, temperature-dependent free energies of unfolding. Analysis of the water structure shows that the polymer-water interface can be characterized as soft and weakly dewetted. We also show that an appropriately defined surface tension for the polymer-water interface is independent of the attractive polymer-water interactions. This helped us to develop a perturbation model for predicting the effect of attractions on polymer collapse thermodynamics. In the second part, we explore connections between structure, thermodynamics, and dynamics of inhomogeneous fluids. First, we use molecular dynamics simulations and classical density functional theory (DFT) to study the hard-sphere fluid at approximately 103 equilibrium state points, spanning different confining geometries and particle-boundary interactions. We provide strong empirical evidence that both excess entropy and a new generalized measure of available volume for inhomogeneous fluids correlate excellently with self-diffusivity, approximately independent of the degree of confinement. Next, we study via simulations how tuning particle-wall interactions to flatten or enhance the particle layering of a model confined fluid impacts its self-diffusivity, viscosity, and entropy. Interestingly, interactions that eliminate particle layering can significantly reduce confined fluid mobility, whereas those that enhance layering can have the opposite effect. Excess entropy helps to understand and predict these trends. Finally, we explore the relationships between the effective interparticle interactions, static structure, and tracer diffusivity of a solute in a mixture. We show that knowledge of these relationships can allow one to “tune” the effective interparticle interactions of the solute in a way that increases its tracer diffusivity. One interesting consequence is that the mobility of a hard-sphere solute can be increased by adding a soft-repulsion to its interaction, effectively making it bigger.