Molecular simulations of concentrated aqueous salt solutions and dipoles
Sindt, Julien Olivier
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Advances in molecular-simulation methods allow for ever larger systems of particles to be studied and on longer timescales. Calculations are reaching such a scale that they can be used to address a vast range of key questions across chemistry, physics, and engineering. In this work, molecular dynamics and Monte Carlo simulations are employed to address two key areas: the structure and dynamics of simple aqueous ionic salt solutions at high concentrations; and the structure, dynamics, and phase behaviour of dipolar fluids (such as colloidal ferrofluids). The first part of the work begins with a study of the structure and dynamics in metastable, supersaturated, aqueous solutions of potassium chloride, and the possible relevance of these to the phenomenon of non-photochemical laser-induced nucleation (NPLIN). It is thought that the potassium and chloride ions form long-lived, amorphous clusters that may, under the influence of nanosecond laser pulses, undergo structural reorganisation to form post-critical crystal nuclei. It is found that spontaneous nucleation does not occur on the simulation timescale, but that amorphous clusters do form with cluster lifetimes comparable to those of the shortest laser pulses that can be used in NPLIN ( 100 picoseconds). Next, an alternative scenario for NPLIN involving rapid laser heating of impurity particles is examined by simulating heated carbon nanoparticles in saturated aqueous solutions of sodium chloride. The concentration at which an aqueous sodium chloride solution first crystallises on the simulation timescale is determined. A spherical carbon impurity is then added to a system with concentration close to, but lower than, the concentration at which crystallisation occurs on the simulation timescale. The effects that adding, and heating, this impurity has on the structure of this near-crystallising system are then observed. The second part of the work discusses model dipolar fluids, of direct relevance to colloidal ferrofluids (suspensions of magnetised nanoparticles in simple carrier liquids). The two-body, dipole-dipole interaction is long-ranged and anisotropic, and it is computationally expensive to handle in molecular simulations. Here a new method is proposed that relies on a formal mapping between the partition function of a dipolar fluid and that of a hypothetical fluid with many-body, short-ranged, isotropic interactions. Only the leading-order two-body interactions (akin to the van der Waals attraction) and three-body interactions (corresponding to the Axilrod-Teller potential) are retained. It is shown that this simple model is sufficient to reproduce the characteristic particle chaining and the associated disappearance of the vapour-liquid phase transition of dipolar fluids. Finally, the dynamical response of ferrofluids to oscillating magnetic fields (the dynamic magnetic susceptibility [DMS]) is studied. The DMS of ferrofluids, predicted by a new theory that takes into account the leading-order effects of dipole-dipole interactions, are critically compared to those found using Brownian-dynamics simulations of monodisperse systems of dipolar particles. This new theory is found to provide more accurate predictions of the DMS than previous theories, with the DMS predicted to a high degree of accuracy for systems with dipolar coupling strength in the experimentally achievable region.