Polymerization-induced polymer aggregation or polymer aggregation-enhanced polymerization? A computer simulation study
In this study, using dissipative particle dynamics simulations coupled with the stochastic reaction model, we investigate the polymerization-induced polymer aggregation process and the polymer aggregation-enhanced polymerization process in a binary solution, by simply tuning the solubility of the solvent to one species of copolymerization. Our simulations indicate that it is a complicated interplay of the copolymerization on the formation of aggregates, namely, on one hand the polymerization may induce the aggregation of one species; on the other hand it has an effect of mixing the two species together. We also find that the polymerization process basically follows the first order reaction kinetics. With the increase of insolubility of B species in the solution, it continuously deviates from the first order reaction kinetics. In the symmetric copolymerization system, we find that the dispersity of copolymers monotonically decreases with the increase of reaction probability. This counterintuitive result can be understood via the comparison of diffusion-controlled kinetics and reaction-controlled kinetics. In the asymmetric system, for systems with preferential copolymerization, the mass distribution shapes are Gaussian-like with certain peaks. For comparison, for systems with preferential homopolymerization, the mass distribution shape shows an obviously bimodal form. This study helps to better understand the cooperative competition between the reaction dynamics and the diffusion dynamics during the preparation of copolymer materials, and could act as a guide to better design and improve the copolymerization technologies in laboratories and in industry.