The behavior of poly(propylene imine) (PPI) dendrimers in concentrated solutions has been investigated using molecular dynamics simulations containing up to a thousand PPI dendrimers of generation 4 or 5 in explicit water. To deal with large system sizes and time scales required to study the solutions over a wide range of dendrimer concentrations, a previously published coarse-grained model was applied. Simulation results on the radius of gyration, structure factor, intermolecular spacing, dendrimer interpenetration and water penetration are compared with available experimental data, providing a clear concentration dependent molecular picture of PPI dendrimers. It is shown that with increasing concentration the dendrimer volume diminishes accompanied by a reduction of internalized water, ultimately resulting in solvent filled cavities between stacked dendrimers. Concurrently dendrimer interpenetration increases only slightly, leaving each dendrimer a separate entity also at high concentrations. Moreover, we compare apparent structure factors, as calculated in experimental studies relying on the decoupling approximation and the constant atomic form factor assumption, with directly computed structure factors. We demonstrate that these already diverge at rather low concentrations, not because of small changes in form factor, but rather because the decoupling approximation fails as monomer positions of separate dendrimers become correlated at concentrations well below the overlap concentration.
- molecular dynamics simulations
- structure factors
- dendrimer interpenetration