Jana Shen , University of Oklahoma
We then applied the hybrid-solvent CpHMD simulations to predict and dissect the microscopic origins of the pKa's of a single surfactant solubilized in ionic and nonionic micelles, which is of interest to detergent industry and oil refinery. Calculation of surfactant pKa's in micelles is a challenging task using
traditional electrostatic methods due to the lack of structure data and knowledge of an effective dielectric constant. We test the implicit- and explicit-solvent based continuous constant pH molecular dynamics (CPHMD) methods for predicting the pKa shift of a lauric acid solubilized in three micelles: dodecyl sulfate (DS), dodecyl trimethylammonium (DTA), and dodecyl triethylene glycol ether (DE3). Both types of simulations were able to reproduce the positive pKa shifts for the anionic DS and nonionic DE3 micelles. However, for the cationic DTA micelle, the implicit-solvent simulation failed to predict the direction of the pKa shift, while the explicit-solvent result is consistent with experiment, although the specific-ion effects remain to be accurately determined. Comparison between the implicit- and explicit-solvent data shows that the latter gives a more realistic description of the conformational environment of the titrating probe. Surprisingly, in the DTA micelle, surfactants are only slightly attracted to the laurate ion, which diminishes the magnitude of electrostatic stabilization, giving rise to a positive pKa shift that can not be explained by chemical intuition or other theoretical models. Our data underscores the importance of microscopic models and ionization-coupled conformational dynamics in quantitative prediction of pKa shifts in micelles. This work has led to a manuscript with two graduate students and a postdoc.