Photoisomerization induced scission of rod-like micelles unravelled with multiscale modeling

G. Heerdt, I. Tranca, A.J. Markvoort, B.M. Szyja, N.H. Morgon, E.J.M. Hensen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)
144 Downloads (Pure)


Hypothesis In photorheological fluids, subtle molecular changes caused by light lead to abrupt macroscopic alterations. Upon UV irradiation of an aqueous cetyltrimethylammonium bromide (CTAB) and trans-ortho-methoxycinnamic acid (trans-OMCA) solution, for instance, the viscosity drops over orders of magnitude. Multiscale modeling allows to elucidate the mechanisms behind these photorheological effects. Experiments We use time-dependent DFT calculations to study the photoisomerization, and a combination of atomistic molecular dynamics (MD) and DFT to probe the influence of both OMCA isomers on the micellar solutions. Findings The time-dependent DFT calculations show that the isomerization pathway occurs in the first triplet excited state with a minimum energy conformation closest to the after photoisomerization predominant cis configuration. In the MD simulations, with sub-microsecond timescales much shorter than the experimental morphological transition, already a clear difference is observed in the packing of the two OMCA isomers: contrary to trans-OMCA, cis-OMCA exposes notable part of its hydrophobic aromatic rings at the micelle surface. This can explain why trans-OMCA adopts rod-like micellar packing (high viscosity) while cis-OMCA spherical micellar packing (low viscosity). Moreover, lowering of the OMCA co-solute concentration allowed us to perform full simulation of the breakup process of the rod-like micelles which are stable prior to isomerization.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)357-367
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Colloid and Interface Science
Publication statusPublished - 15 Jan 2018


  • MD simulations
  • Micelle transition
  • Photorheology
  • Rotational barriers
  • Time-dependent DFT


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