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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Multiscale Modeling of Mesoscale and Interfacial Phenomena

  • Author(s): Petsev, Nikolai Dimitrov
  • Advisor(s): Shell, M. S.
  • Leal, L. G.
  • et al.
Abstract

With rapidly emerging technologies that feature interfaces modified at the nanoscale, traditional macroscopic models are pushed to their limits to explain phenomena where molecular processes can play a key role. Often, such problems appear to defy explanation when treated with coarse-grained continuum models alone, yet remain prohibitively expensive from a molecular simulation perspective. A prominent example is surface nanobubbles: nanoscopic gaseous domains typically found on hydrophobic surfaces that have puzzled researchers for over two decades due to their unusually long lifetimes. We show how an entirely macroscopic, non-equilibrium model explains many of their anomalous properties, including their stability and abnormally small gas-side contact angles. From this purely transport perspective, we investigate how factors such as temperature and saturation affect nanobubbles, providing numerous experimentally testable predictions. However, recent work also emphasizes the relevance of molecular-scale phenomena that cannot be described in terms of bulk phases or pristine interfaces. This is true for nanobubbles as well, whose nanoscale heights may require molecular detail to capture the relevant physics, in particular near the bubble three-phase contact line.

Therefore, there is a clear need for general ways to link molecular granularity and behavior with large-scale continuum models in the treatment of many interfacial problems. In light of this, we have developed a general set of simulation strategies that couple mesoscale particle-based continuum models to molecular regions simulated through conventional molecular dynamics (MD). In addition, we derived a transport model for binary mixtures that opens the possibility for a wide range of applications in biological and drug delivery problems, and is readily reconciled with our hybrid MD-continuum techniques. Approaches that couple multiple length scales for fluid mixtures are largely absent in the literature, and we provide a novel and general framework for multiscale modeling of systems featuring one or more dissolved species. This makes it possible to retain molecular detail for parts of the problem that require it while using a simple, continuum description for parts where high detail is unnecessary, reducing the number of degrees of freedom (i.e. number of particles) dramatically. This opens the possibility for modeling ion transport in biological processes and biomolecule assembly in ionic solution, as well as electrokinetic phenomena at interfaces such as corrosion. The number of particles in the system is further reduced through an integrated boundary approach, which we apply to colloidal suspensions. In this thesis, we describe this general framework for multiscale modeling single- and multicomponent systems, provide several simple equilibrium and non-equilibrium case studies, and discuss future applications.

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