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J Phys Chem B. 2015 May 21;119(20):6217-24. doi: 10.1021/acs.jpcb.5b01765. Epub 2015 May 7.

Accurate modeling of ionic surfactants at high concentration.

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†Department of Chemistry, University of Michigan, 930 N. University, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48109, United States.
‡Biophysics Program, University of Michigan, 930 N. University, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48109, United States.


Molecular dynamics (MD) simulation is a useful tool for simulating formulations of surfactant mixtures from first-principles, which can be used to predict surfactant morphology and other industrially relevant thermodynamic properties. However, the surfactant structure is sensitive to the parameters used in MD simulations, and in the absence of extensive validation against experimental data, it is often not obvious a priori which range of parameter sets to choose. In this work, we compare the performance of ion parameters implemented in nonpolarizable classical MD simulations, and its effect on simulations of an idealized solution of sodium dodecyl sulfate (SDS). We find that previous artifacts reported in simulations of larger SDS constructs are a direct consequence of using parameters that poorly model ionic interactions at high concentration. Using osmotic pressure and/or other thermodynamic properties measured at finite concentration, such as Kirkwood-Buff integrals, is shown to be the most cost-effective means to validate and parametrize existing force fields. Our findings highlight the importance of optimizing intermolecular parameters for simulations of systems with a high local concentration, which may be applicable in other contexts, such as in molecular crowding, hotspot mapping, protein folding, and modeling pH effects.

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