Molecular modeling the microstructure and phase behavior of bulk and inhomogeneous complex fluids
Chapman, Walter G.
Doctor of Philosophy
Accurate prediction of the thermodynamics and microstructure of complex fluids is contingent upon a model's ability to capture the molecular architecture and the specific intermolecular and intramolecular interactions that govern fluid behavior. This dissertation makes key contributions to improving the understanding and molecular modeling of complex bulk and inhomogeneous fluids, with an emphasis on associating and macromolecular molecules (water, hydrocarbons, polymers, surfactants, and colloids). Such developments apply broadly to fields ranging from biology and medicine, to high performance soft materials and energy. In the bulk, the perturbed-chain statistical associating fluid theory (PC-SAFT), an equation of state based on Wertheim's thermodynamic perturbation theory (TPT1), is extended to include a crossover correction that significantly improves the predicted phase behavior in the critical region. In addition, PC-SAFT is used to investigate the vapor-liquid equilibrium of sour gas mixtures, to improve the understanding of mercaptan/sulfide removal via gas treating. For inhomogeneous fluids, a density functional theory (DFT) based on TPT1 is extended to problems that exhibit radially symmetric inhomogeneities. First, the influence of model solutes on the structure and interfacial properties of water are investigated. The DFT successfully describes the hydrophobic phenomena on microscopic and macroscopic length scales, capturing structural changes as a function of solute size and temperature. The DFT is used to investigate the structure and effective forces in nonadsorbing polymer-colloid mixtures. A comprehensive study is conducted characterizing the role of polymer concentration and particle/polymer size ratio on the structure, polymer induced depletion forces, and tendency towards colloidal aggregation. The inhomogeneous form of the association functional is used, for the first time, to extend the DFT to associating polymer systems, applicable to any association scheme. Theoretical results elucidate how reversible bonding governs the structure of a fluid near a surface and in confined environments, the molecular connectivity (formation of supramolecules, star polymers, etc.) and the phase behavior of the system. Finally, the DFT is extended to predict the inter- and intramolecular correlation functions of polymeric fluids. A theory capable of providing such local structure is important to understanding how local chemistry, branching, and bond flexibility affect the thermodynamic properties of polymers.
Polymer chemistry; Chemical engineering; Molecular physics