Oral Defense of Doctoral Dissertation – Computational Sciences and Informatics – Molecular Dynamics Study of Polymers and Atomic Clusters – Daniel Ray Sponseller

Notice and Invitation
Oral Defense of Doctoral Dissertation
Doctor of Philosophy in Computational Sciences and Informatics
Department of Computational and Data Sciences
College of Science
George Mason University

Daniel Ray Sponseller
Bachelor of Science, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, 1987
Master of Science, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, 1995

Molecular Dynamics Study of Polymers and Atomic Clusters

Thursday, November 30, 10:00 a.m.
Research Hall, Room 161

All are invited to attend.

Estela Blaisten-Barojas, Dissertation Director
Howard Sheng
James Glasbrenner
Dmitri Klimov

This dissertation contains investigations based on Molecular Dynamics (MD) of a variety of systems, from small atomic clusters to polymers in solution and in their condensed phases. The overall research is divided in three parts. First, I tested a new thermostat in the literature on the thermal equilibration of a small cluster of Lennard-Jones (LJ) atoms. The proposed thermostat is a Hamiltonian thermostat based on a logarithmic oscillator with the outstanding property that the mean value of its kinetic energy is constant independent of the mass and energy. I inspected several weak-coupling interaction models between the LJ cluster and the logarithmic oscillator in 3D. In all cases I show that this coupling gives rise to a a kinetic motion of the cluster center of mass without transferring kinetic energy to the interatomic vibrations. This is a failure of the published thermostat because the temperature of the cluster is mainly due to vibrations in small atomic clusters This logarithmic oscillator cannot be used to thermostat any atomic or molecular system, small or large.

The second part of the dissertation is the investigation of the inherent structure of the polymer polyethylene glycol (PEG) solvated in three different solvents: water, water with 4% ethanol, and ethyl acetate. PEG with molecular weight of 2000 Da (PEG2000) is a polymer with many applications from industrial manufacturing to medicine that in bulk is a paste. However, its structure in very dilute solutions deserved a thorough study, important for the onset of aggregation with other polymer chains. I introduced a modification to the GROMOS 54A7 force field parameters for modeling PEG2000 and ethyl acetate. Both force fields are new and have now been incorporated into the database of known residues in the molecular dynamics package Gromacs. This research required numerous high performance computing MD simulations in the ARGO cluster of GMU for systems with about 100,000 solvent molecules. My findings show that PEG2000 in water acquires a ball-like structure without encapsulating solvent molecules. In addition, no hydrogen bonds were formed. In water with 4% ethanol, PEG2000 acquires also a ball-like structure but the polymer ends fluctuate folding outward and onward, although the general shape is still a compact ball-like structure.

In contrast, PEG2000 in ethyl acetate is quite elongated, as a very flexible spaghetti that forms kinks that unfold to give rise to folds and kinks in other positions along the polymer length. The behavior resembles an ideal polymer in a theta solvent. A Principal Component Analysis (PCA) of the minima composing the inherent structure evidences the presence of two distinct groups of ball-like structures of PEG2000 in water and water with 4\% ethanol. These groups give a definite signature to the solvated structure of PEG2000 in these two solvents. In contrast, PCA reveals several groups of avoided states for PEG2000 in ethyl acetate that disqualify the possibility of being an ideal polymer in a theta solvent.

The third part of the dissertation is a work in progress, where I investigate the condensed phase of PEG2000 and study the interface between the condensed phase and the three different solvents under study. With a strategy of combining NPT MD simulations at different temperatures and pressures, PEG2000 condensed phase displays the experimental density within a 1% discrepancy at 300 K and 1 atm. This is a very encouraging result on this ongoing project.

A copy of Dan’s dissertation is available for examination from Karen Underwood, Department of Computational and Data Sciences, 373 Research Hall. The dissertation is available to read only within the Department and cannot be taken out of the Department or copied.