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Author ORCID ID is 000000028579449X
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  1. We report the discovery of an ionic small molecule surfactant that undergoes water-drive self- assembly into quasispherical micelles, which pack into the first lyotropic liquid crystalline Frank–Kasper σ phase. Small-angle X-ray scattering studies indicate that this unexpected, low-symmetry phase is characterized by a tetragonal unit cell, in which 30 sub-2 nm micelles of five discrete types are arranged into a tetrahedral close packing with exceptional translational order. Varying the relative amounts of surfactant and water in these lyotropic phases enables formation of a Frank–Kasper A15 sphere packing and a more common body-centered cubic structure. MD simulations reveal that the symmetrymore » breaking that drives the selection of the σ and A15 phases arises from a delicate interplay between the drive to maintain local spherical particle symmetry and the maximization of electrostatic cohesion between the soft micellar particles.« less
  2. Gemini surfactants comprise two single-tailed surfactants connected by a linker at or near the hydrophilic headgroup. They display a variety of water concentration-dependent lyotropic liquid crystal (LLC) morphologies that are sensitive to surfactant molecular structure, and na- ture of the headgroups and counterions. Recently, an interesting dependence of the aqueous phase behavior on the length of the linker has been discovered; odd-numbered linker length surfactants exhibit characteristically different phase diagrams than even-numbered linker sur- factants. In this work, we investigate this “odd/even effect” using computer simulations, focusing on experimentally studied gemini dicarboxylates with Na + counterions, 7 non-terminal carbon atomsmore » in the tails, and either 3, 4, 5, or 6 carbon atoms in the linker (denoted Na-73, Na-74, Na-75, and Na-76 respectively). We find that the relative electrostatic repulsion be- tween headgroups in the different morphologies is correlated with qualitative features of the experimental phase diagrams, predicting destabilization of hexagonal phases as the cylinders pack close together at low water content. Significant differences in the relative headgroup ori- entations of Na-74 and Na-76 compared to Na-73 and Na-75 surfactants lead to differences in linker-linker packing, and long-range headgroup/headgroup electrostatic repulsion, which affects the delicate electrostatic balance between hexagonal and gyroid phases. Finally, much of the fundamental insight presented in this work is enabled by the ability to computationally construct and analyze metastable phases that are not observable in experiments.« less
    Cited by 1
  3. The dynamics of water confined to nanometer-sized domains is important in a variety of applications ranging from proton exchange membranes to crowding effects in biophysics. In this work we study the dynamics of water in gemini surfactant-based lyotropic liquid crystals (LLCs) using molecular dynamics simulations. These systems have well characterized morphologies, e.g., hexagonal, gyroid, and lamellar, and the surfaces of the confining regions can be controlled by modifying the headgroup of the surfactants. This allows one to study the effect of topology, functionalization, and interfacial curvature on the dynamics of confined water. Through analysis of the translational diffusion and rotationalmore » relaxation we conclude that the hydration level and resulting confinement lengthscale is the predominate determiner of the rates of water dynamics, and other effects, namely surface functionality and curvature, are largely secondary. In conclusion, this novel analysis of the water dynamics in these LLC systems provides an important comparison for previous studies of water dynamics in lipid bilayers and reverse micelles.« less
  4. The manuscript by Ballal et al.(Ref 1) presents an interesting study demonstrating the inability of popular force fields with standard combination rules to accurately describe water/alkane interactions. The authors find that the Lorentz-Berthelot combination rules on the SPC/E water and TraPPE alkane potentials give a cross interaction that fails to predict the (low-water content) water solubility in various alkanes. Realizing that both explicit polarization as well as the static octupole moment of methane are missing in these potentials, the authors examine the effect of these terms, but are still unable to resolve the discrepancy. They conclude with the statement thatmore » “the research community lacks a complete picture of water-alkane interactions at the molecular level.« less
  5. The diffusion of protons in self-assembled systems is potentially important for the design of efficient proton exchange membranes. In this work, we study proton dynamics in a low-water content, lamellar phase of an sodium-carboxylate gemini surfactant/water system using computer simulations. The hopping of protons via the Grotthuss mechanism is explicity allowed through the multi-state empirical valence bond (MS-EVB) method. We find that the hydronium ion is trapped on the hydrophobic side of the surfactant-water interface, and proton diffusion then proceeds by hopping between surface sites. The importance of hydrophobic traps is surprising, because one would expect the hydronium ions tomore » be trapped at the charged head-groups. Finally, the physics illustrated in this system should be relevant to the proton dynamics in other amphiphilic membrane systems, whenever there exists exposed hydrophobic surface regions.« less
  6. The properties of water under confinement are of practical and fundamental interest. Here in this work we study the properties of water in the self-assembled lyotropic phases of gemini surfactants with a focus on testing the standard analysis of quasi-elastic neutron scattering (QENS) experiments. In QENS experiments the dynamic structure factor is measured and fit to models to extract the translational diffusion constant, D T , and rotational relaxation time, τ R. We test this procedure by using simulation results for the dynamic structure factor, extracting the dynamic parameters from the fit as is typically done in experiments, and comparingmore » the values to those directly measured in the simulations. We find that the decoupling approximation, where the intermediate scattering function is assumed to be a product of translational and rotational contributions, is quite accurate. The jump-diffusion and isotropic rotation models, however, are not accurate when the degree of confinement is high. In particular, the exponential approximations for the intermediate scattering function fail for highly confined water and the values of D T and τ R can differ from the measured value by as much as a factor of two. Other models have more fit parameters, however, and with the range of energies and wave-vectors accessible to QENS, the typical analysis appears to be the best choice. In the most confined lamellar phase, the dynamics are sufficiently slow that QENS does not access a large enough time scale and neutron spin echo measurements would be a valuable technique in addition to QENS.« less

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