Molecular dynamics study of the LCST transition in aqueous poly(N-n-propylacrylamide)
The breadth of technological applications of smart polymers relies on the possibility of tuning their molecular structure to respond to external stimuli. In this context, N-substituted acrylamide-based polymers are widely studied thermoresponsive polymers. Poly(N-n-propylacrylamide) (PNnPAm), which is a structural isomer of the poly(N-isopropylacrylamide) (PNIPAm) exhibits however, a lower phase transition in aqueous solution. In this work, we use all-atom molecular dynamics simulations of PNnPAm in aqueous solutions to study, from a microscopic point-of-view, the influence of chain size and concentration on the LCST of PNnPAm. Our analysis shows that the collapse of a single oligomer of PNnPAm upon heating is dependent on the chain length and corresponds to a complex interplay between hydration and intermolecular interactions. Analysis of systems with multiple chains shows an aggregation of PNnPAm chains above the LCST.