Investigation of molecular hydrophobicity for energy and environmental applications: simulations and experiments
"Hydrophobic hydration of non polar molecules is the principal driving force that dictates several interfacial phenomena in nature such as self assembly of surfactant molecules, fate of environmental pollutants, wetting of surfaces, solution behavior of polymers and folding of biological molecules such as proteins. However, the physics associated with hydrophobic interactions on a molecular length scale, which is central to self assembly and protein folding, is different from the macroscopic phenomena of de-mixing of oil and water or wetting of surfaces. This dissertation seeks to understand the implication of hydrophobic interactions to energy and environmental applications using different approaches. The first approach is to examine the behavior of water molecules with hydrophobic moieties at a molecular level using molecular dynamics simulations and evaluate macroscopic thermodynamic properties. The first problem addressed in this dissertation is the enclathration of gas molecules by water molecules in the presence of quaternary ammonium ions. Small polar organic molecules such as quaternary ammonium salts form crystalline inclusion compounds called semi-clathrate hydrates, where these polar molecules occupy a lattice position of the hydrogen bond network of water molecules. These crystalline structures of water are formed at ambient temperature and pressure conditions and can store as much 3%(w/w) of methane, making them potential materials for gas storage. The stability and structure of semi-clathrate hydrates of tetrabutylammonium bromide (TBAB) and methane were investigated using molecular dynamics (MD) simulations. MD simulations were done at varying conditions of temperature and pressure for methane-TBAB ratios of 0, 0.5, 1, 1.5 and 2. Thermo-mechanical properties evaluated using MD simulations were in agreement with experimental data available. Our investigation of this system shows that enclathration of methane in these semi-clathrate hydrates is thermodynamically favorable even at higher temperatures and shows signatures of hydrophobic hydration. Our estimation of free energies associated with successive inclusion of methane molecules in these cavities suggests a Langmuir-type adsorption of methane in these cages. Another problem investigated in this dissertation is the effect of chemical heterogeneity of crystalline cellulose (110) and (100) surfaces on their respective wetting behavior. Understanding the interaction of water with cellulose is important in the view of its role in consumer textiles made from cotton cellulose and potential applications of cellulose as biomaterials and as an energy source. The difference in the wetting behavior of (110) and (100) crystal surfaces is due to the asymmetry in the exposure of the hydroxyl groups by these surfaces. MD simulations were used to evaluate the contact angles of hemi-cylindrical water nanodroplets on crystalline (110) and (100) surfaces of the cellulose Iβ allomorph. While the native crystalline surfaces were completely wetted by water nanodroplets, substituting the primary hydroxyl groups with methyl and methoxy groups results in dewetting. The contact angle of a hemicylidrical water nanodroplet on the hydrophobically-modified (110) surface is greater than on the (100) surface suggesting that the (110) surface has a greater exposure of the primary hydroxyl groups. The solubility of cellulose in aliphatic N-oxides has been of particular interest because of its application in industrial processes such as Lyocell process. However, the mechanisms that dictate the dissolution of cellulose in these selective solvents are not clearly understood. Attempt is made to understand the solvation of cellulose in N-Methylmorpholine oxide (NMMO) and water from a molecular perspective. MD simulations of a model cellohexaose crystallite solvated respectively in pure water, NMMO and in an equimolar mixture suggest that while NMMO molecules preferentially cluster around the primary hydroxyl groups in cellohexaose chains, the role of water is critical in its ability to access the glycosidic oxygen. The second approach is to study the implication of introducing hydrophobicity at molecular level and experimental determination of its implication to addressing interfacial aspects of environmental remediation. Sub-micron size carbon particles derived from hydrothermal decomposition of sucrose are effective in stabilizing water-in-trichloroethylene (TCE) emulsions. Irreversible adsorption of carbon particles at the TCE-water interface resulting in the formation of a monolayer around the water droplet in the emulsion phase is identified as the key reason for emulsion stability. Cryogenic Scanning Electron Microscopy was used to clearly image the assembly of carbon particles at the TCE-water interface and the formation of bilayers at regions of droplet-droplet contact. The results from this study have broad implications to the subsurface injection of carbon submicron particles containing zerovalent iron nanoparticles to treat pools of chlorinated hydrocarbons that are sequestered in fractured bedrock. Interfacial aspects of hydrophobically modified biopolymer and its ability to enhance the stability of crude-oil droplets formed were investigated. Turbidimetric analyses show that emulsions of crude oil in saline water prepared using a combination of the biopolymer and the well-studied chemical dispersant (Corexit 9500A) remain stable for extended periods in comparison to emulsions stabilized by the dispersant alone. The hydrophobic residues attached to the polymer preferentially anchor at the oil-water interface and form a protective layer of the polymer around the droplets. The enhanced stability of the droplets is due to the polymer layer providing an increase in electrostatic and steric repulsions and thereby a large barrier to droplet coalescence. The implication of this study to current remediation methods is significant since the addition of hydrophobically modified chitosan following the application of chemical dispersant to an oil spill can potentially reduce the use of chemical dispersants. Increasing the molecular weight of the biopolymer changes the rheological properties of the oil-in-water emulsion. Emulsions stabilized by using a combination of Corexit 9500A and high molecular weight hydrophobically modified chitosan show characteristics of a weak gel. The ability of the biopolymer to tether the oil droplets in a gel-like matrix has potential applications in the immobilization of surface oil spills for enhanced removal. Carbon microspheres containing magnetite nanoparticles, synthesized using inexpensive precursors such as sucrose and iron chloride, are ferromagnetic and have affinity to the oil phase. We demonstrate that a thin layer of crude oil can be corralled and thickened by the application of nonionic surfactant. Following the application of magnetite-carbon particles, hydrophobically modified chitosan was applied to form a gel-like phase. This gel-like phase of crude oil containing magnetic carbon spheres can be removed as an aggregate using a magnet resulting in enhanced recovery of crude oil. The results from the current study point to developing potential applications for confinement, magnetic tracking and removal of surface oil. "