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Title: Microscopic behaviour of porous macromolecules
Author: Del Regno, Annalaura
ISNI:       0000 0004 5355 5296
Awarding Body: University of Manchester
Current Institution: University of Manchester
Date of Award: 2014
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This Thesis investigates computationally the behaviour of two novel microporous materials,organic molecules of intrinsic microporosity (OMIMs) and polymers of intrinsic microporosity(PIMs). OMIMs and PIMs are organic amorphous materials, which achieve microporosityby packing inefficiently. The design of amorphous materials is challenging because their self-assembly process is not known. Predictive molecular simulations can help in recognising thefeatures that affect the properties of these materials, and guiding in the design of new structures with desired performances. OMIMs are highly concave shaped molecules, consisting of a core and a series of termini, which provide the geometry and the general chemical environment of these structures, respectively. PIMs are polymers consisting of fundamental units such as stiff segments and contortionsites, which form either linear or network like porous structures. While chronologically olderthan OMIMs, they share with them a common design philosophy. This Thesis is presented in alternative format, and the results, consisting of five journal articles,can be divided into three main parts. The first part focuses on recognising a reliable method to generate representative models ofOMIMs. Different computational protocols and molecular mechanics descriptions were investigated; the development of the utilised simulation protocol was based on comparison of several simulation methods and force fields to experimental wide angle X-ray scattering (WAXS) patterns. Our work suggests that OMIMs can be described successfully by both PCFF and UFF; the final packed material can be generated using a 21-step compression-decompression molecular dynamics protocol, previously developed to generate virtual model of PIMs. The examination of the simulated structures has provided a deeper understanding of the features that affect the packing behaviour of this class of materials, suggesting that OMIMs have a greater microporosity when the molecules are the most shape-persistent, which required rigid structures and bulky end groups. The adsorption behaviour described by different generic force fields (Dreiding, OPLS and UFF) was also investigated to guide on the selection of the solid-fluid interactions when modelling OMIMs, for future comparison with experimental data. Our results suggest that very strong interactions between argon adsorbate and OMIM-based framework are described by UFF, while the weakest adsorbent is obtained using OPLS force field. The second part of the research focuses on assessing the effect that different termini’s chemistry and bulkiness have over the packing behaviour, adsorption properties and solubility of the OMIMs. The microporous frameworks generated by two selected families of cruciform OMIMs (benzene and naphthalene- based) were investigated with respect to their packing behaviour, porosity and adsorption properties. Our analysis suggests that the final density of the material, as well as the surface area and pore volume, depend on the ending group’s bulkiness. Bulkier molecules lead to materials with lower densities, but it was found that the adsorption behaviour is not just related to the material’s density, but also to the pore size and shape, which are determined by the way the molecules pack. The relationship between adsorption capacity and physical properties was analysed and the role of surface area, free volume and enthalpic interaction was used to identify different adsorption regimes. It was found that the uptake of argon at low pressure is proportional to the strength of the adsorbent-adsorbate interaction while at moderate pressure it is dependent on the free volume and surface area. The dissolution of three cruciform OMIMs was investigated in dichloromethane, ethyl acetateand toluene. Direct interface molecular dynamics simulations showed that the solubility process consists of two steps; the diffusion of the solvent in the OMIM-rich phase, and the departure of the OMIMs in the solvent bulk. We proposed a simple model to represent this mechanism. Furthermore, results from infinite dilution simulations show that the solvent-OMIMs interactions can be related to the chemistry of the OMIMs and to the solvent’s properties. We found that, in general, increasing the length of the OMIM’s arm affects negatively the solubility of the material, while adding bulky alkyl groups favours the interaction with the solvent molecules. The third part concentrates on the characterisation of PIMs and their application as CO2 adsorbent. Properties of four polymers of intrinsic microporosity containing Tröger’s base units were assessed for CO2 capture experimentally and computationally. Structural properties included average pore size, pore size distribution, surface area, and accessible pore volume, whereas thermodynamic properties focused on density, CO2 sorption isotherms, and enthalpies of adsorption. It was found that the shape of the contortion site plays a more important role than the polymer density when assessing the capacity of the material, and that the presence of a Tröger base unit only slightly affects the amount adsorbed at low pressures, but it does not have any significant influence on the enthalpy of adsorption fingerprint. A comparison of the materials studied with those reported in the literature allowed us to propose a set of guidelines for the design of polymers for CO2 capture applications.
Supervisor: Siperstein, Flor Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Molecular dynamics ; Monte Carlo simulations ; Amorphous materials ; Adsorption ; Solubility ; Packing ; OMIMs ; PIMs