Molecular Simulations and Mechanistic Analysis of the Effect of CO2 Sorption on Thermodynamics, Structure, and Local Dynamics of Molten Atactic Polystyrene

Eleonora Ricci, Niki Vergadou, Georgios G. Vogiatzis, Maria Grazia De Angelis, Doros N. Theodorou

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

A simulation strategy encompassing different scales was applied to the systematic study of the effects of CO2 uptake on the properties of atactic polystyrene (aPS) melts. The analysis accounted for the influence of temperature between 450 and 550 K, polymer molecular weights (Mw) between 2100 and 31000 g/mol, and CO2 pressures up to 20 MPa on the volumetric, swelling, structural, and dynamic properties of the polymer as well as on the CO2 solubility and diffusivity by performing molecular dynamics (MD) simulations of the system in a fully atomistic representation. A hierarchical scheme was used for the generation of the higher Mw polymer systems, which consisted of equilibration at a coarse-grained level of representation through efficient connectivity-altering Monte Carlo simulations, and reverse-mapping back to the atomistic representation, obtaining the configurations used for subsequent MD simulations. Sorption isotherms and associated swelling effects were determined by using an iterative procedure that incorporated a series of MD simulations in the NPT ensemble and the Widom test particle insertion method, while CO2 diffusion coefficients were extracted from long MD runs in the NVE ensemble. Solubility and diffusivity compared favorably with experimental results and with predictions of the Sanchez–Lacombe equation of state, which was reparametrized to capture the Mw dependence of polymer properties with greater accuracy. Structural features of the polymer matrix were correctly reproduced by the simulations, and the effects of gas concentration and Mw on structure and local dynamics were thoroughly investigated. In the presence of CO2, a significant acceleration of the segmental dynamics of the polymer occurred, more pronouncedly at low Mw. The speed-up effect caused by the swelling agent was not limited to the chain ends but affected the whole chain in a similar fashion.
Original languageUndefined/Unknown
Pages (from-to)3669–3689
Issue number10
Early online date11 May 2020
Publication statusPublished - 26 May 2020

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