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J Phys Chem B. 2008 Mar 13;112(10):2981-90. doi: 10.1021/jp076416h. Epub 2008 Feb 15.

How hydrophobic buckminsterfullerene affects surrounding water structure.

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Department of Structural Biology, Stanford Medical School, Stanford, CA 94305, USA.


The hydrophobic hydration of fullerenes in water is of significant interest as the most common Buckminsterfullerene (C60) is a mesoscale sphere; C60 also has potential in pharmaceutical and nanomaterial applications. We use an all-atom molecular dynamics simulation lasting hundreds of nanoseconds to determine the behavior of a single molecule of C60 in a periodic box of water, and compare this to methane. A C60 molecule does not induce drying at the surface; however, unlike a hard sphere methane, a hard sphere C60 solute does. This is due to a larger number of attractive Lennard-Jones interactions between the carbon atom centers in C60 and the surrounding waters. In these simulations, water is not uniformly arranged but rather adopts a range of orientations in the first hydration shell despite the spherical symmetry of both solutes. There is a clear effect of solute size on the orientation of the first hydration shell waters. There is a large increase in hydrogen-bonding contacts between waters in the C60 first hydration shell. There is also a disruption of hydrogen bonds between waters in the first and second hydration shells. Water molecules in the first hydration shell preferentially create triangular structures that minimize the net water dipole near the surface near both the methane and C60 surface, reducing the total energy of the system. Additionally, in the first and second hydration shells, the water dipoles are ordered to a distance of 8 A from the solute surface. We conclude that, with a diameter of approximately 1 nm, C60 behaves as a large hydrophobic solute.

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