Title page for ETD etd-01312011-113547

Type of Document Dissertation
Author Layfield, Joshua Parker
Author's Email Address layfield@vt.edu
URN etd-01312011-113547
Title Theoretical studies of the dynamics of gas-phase and gas/surface atom+alkane reactions and of the structure and dynamics of water confined between hydrophobic surfaces
Degree PhD
Department Chemistry
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Troya, Diego Committee Chair
Crawford, Daniel T. Committee Member
Madsen, Louis A. Committee Member
Morris, John R. Committee Member
Valeyev, Eduard Faritovich Committee Member
  • self-assembled monolayers
  • quasi-classical trajectory simulations
  • potential-energy surface derivation
  • hydrophobic effect
  • gas/organic-surface interactions
Date of Defense 2011-01-26
Availability restricted
Comprehension of reactive chemical dynamics in the gas phase and at the gas/organic-surface interface and non-reactive dynamics at the interface between hydrophobic surfaces and water requires an understanding of the fundamental atomic and molecular interactions that undergird these important phenomena. In an effort to study these regimes of chemical interaction, we have performed computational simulations that probe the dynamics of chemical systems that exemplify each of these domains. To study gas-phase chemical dynamics, we reparametrized semiempirical Hamiltonians so that they can accurately describe the potential energy surfaces for two distinct atom+alkane reactions. In addition to their demonstrated accuracy, these methods possess the attractive quality of being computationally inexpensive enough to afford extensive direct-dynamics trajectory studies. Our results on the dynamics of atom+alkane hydrogen-abstraction reactions have shown good agreement with experimental metrics that are as diverse as product velocity distributions, excitation functions, angular distributions and rovibrational state distributions for diatomic products of the abstraction. We have demonstrated that our reparametrized Hamiltonians are suitable for investigating gas-phase reactions with up to 15 (5 heavy) atoms and that they are appropriate for studying reactions beyond the gas phase, especially gas/surface reactions.

By employing our semiempirical methods within a quantum-mechanics/molecular-mechanics hybrid scheme we are able to examine hydrogen-abstraction reactions of fluorine atoms with alkanethiolate self-assembled monolayers. Our simulations reproduce the general trends of experimental results for the cousin F+squalane reaction. Our simulations also probe the role that secondary collisions play in determining the final internal and translational energy of the product HF molecules. For instance, we determined that very few interactions with the SAM surface were required to cool rotational and translational modes of the HF product, while its vibrational energy remains unchanged on the time scale that HF molecules trap on the SAM surface.

Moving beyond the gas/organic surface interface, we have also performed molecular-dynamics simulations of thin water films confined between hydrophobic SAM surfaces. These simulations illuminated the structural and dynamics behavior induced in the water films by confinement in hydrophobic environments. While most effects of the surface do not penetrate deep into the water layers we have noted that enhanced lateral diffusion of water molecules can persist in these films with > 1 nm length scales. We have elucidated a possible mechanistic precursor for the attractive forces seen in experimental measurement of the hydrophobic effect.

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