Enhanced sampling of cylindrical microphase separation via a shell-averaged bond-orientational order parameter†
The formation of a hexagonal phase from disordered phase is one of the typical order–disorder transitions (ODTs) observed in asymmetric diblock copolymer systems. In order to drive this transition in a particle-based simulation, we introduce a shell-based bond-orientational order parameter that selectively responds to the mesoscopic order of the hexagonal cylinder phase. From metadynamics simulations in a bond-free particle model system, the characteristic pathway involved with the underlying free energy surface is deduced for the disordered-to-hexagonal transition. It is shown consecutively that the transition pathway and the metastable state are reproduced in dissipative particle dynamics simulations for the corresponding transition in a bulk asymmetric block copolymer melt system. These agreements suggest that efficient strategies for enhanced sampling with particle-based simulations of block copolymer systems can be devised using coarse-grained pictures of the mesoscopic order.