Probing hydrophobic hydration of non-ionic chains and micellar assemblies using molecular dynamics simulations
Water-mediated interactions between non-polar moieties play a crucial role in driving self-assembly processes such as surfactant micellization, protein folding, and many other diverse phenomena. Among a variety of forces contributing to the self assembly, hydrophobic interactions play a dominant role. Historically, thermodynamic models describing hydrophobic effects have invariably relied on macroscopic thermodynamic properties to infer this molecular behavior. Experimental studies help to probe the spatial correlations between model hydrophobic solutes and to measure their waters of hydration in order to examine structural perturbations in the surrounding water induced by the solute, or to measure directly the attractive forces between hydrophobic surfaces. Further, molecular simulations can be used to derive entropic and enthalpic contributions to the free energy of hydrophobic hydration in terms of water structure surrounding simple, model hydrophobic solutes, such as methane. Based on the results for simple solutes, these methods can now be extended to investigate the hydrophobic hydration of more complex molecular solutes of arbitrary size and shape such as micelles. Atomistic simulations of chemical systems provide a new perspective towards testing the theories behind the ubiquitous phenomenon of hydrophobic effect, and probe the underlying thermodynamic signatures. In this context, my research work delves into the water-mediated interactions leading to the hydrophobic hydration of short chain alkanes, volumetric properties of unfolded polypeptides and self-assembly mechanism in polymer-surfactant systems. The first part of my research involves re-optimization of existing force field interaction parameters for the CHn alkane sites (n=0 to 4) to accurately reproduce the experimental hydration free energies of linear and branched chain alkanes over a range of temperatures. This Hydrophobic Hydration-Alkane (HH-Alkane) model accounts for polarization effects in the alkane hydration and can be extended to polypeptides in water. Subsequent discussions will focus on the results from extensive molecular simulations of tri- and tetrapeptides to quantify the accuracy of the simulation model in capturing the volumetric properties of unfolded polypeptides. Group additivity correlation was used to calculate the partial molar volumes of the neutral sidechains of amino acids, glycine backbone unit and both zwitterionic and N-acetyl/amide terminal units. The simulation results will be compared to the experimental results to validate these observations. In addition, the research explores the self-assembly and aggregation mechanism in anionic sodium dodecyl sulfate (SDS) surfactant- non-ionic Polyethylene Oxide (PEO) and Poly vinyl pyrrolidone (PVP) polymer systems. Potential of mean force calculations at multiple temperatures show an increasing trend in hydrophobic attractions within the polymer-micelle system. Also, these simulations provide interesting insights into the experimentally observed phenomena between the polymers and the micelles starting from pre-formed structure as well as random configurations.