Journal of Physical Chemistry B, Vol.120, No.11, 2951-2967, 2016
Structure and Dynamics of Octamethylcyclotetrasiloxane Confined between Mica Surfaces
Using a molecular model for octamethylcydotetrasiloxane (OMCTS), molecular dynamics simulations are carried out to probe the phase state of OMCTS confined between two mica surfaces in equilibrium With a reservoir. Molecular dynamics simulations are carried out for elevations ranging from 5 to 35 K above the melting point for the OMCTS model used in this study. The Helmholtz free energy is, computed for a specific confinement using the :two-phase thermodynamic (2PT) method. Analysis of the in-plane pair correlation functions did not reveal signatures of freezing even under an extreme confinement of two layers. OMCTS is found to orient with a wide distribution of orientations with respect to the mica surface, with a distinct preference for the surface parallel configuration in the contact layers. The self-intermediate scattering function is found to decay with increasing relaxation times as the surface separation is decreased, and the two-step relaxation in the scattering function, a signature of glassy dynamics, distinctly evolves as the temperature is lowered. However, even at 5 K above the melting point, we did not observe a freezing transition and the self-intermediate scattering functions relax within 200 ps for the seven-layered confined system. The self diffusivity and relaxation times obtained from the Kohlrausch-Williams-Watts stretched exponential fits to the late alpha-relaxation exhibit power law scalings with the packing fraction as predicted by mode coupling theory. A distinct discontinuity in the Helmholtz free energy, potential energy, and a sharp change in the local bond order parameter, Q(4), was observed at 230 K for a five-layered system upon cooling, indicative of a first-order transition. A freezing point depression of about 30 K was observed for this five-layered confined system, and at the lower temperatures, contact layers were found to be disordered with long-range order present only in the inner layers. These dynamical signatures indicate that confined OMCTS undergoes a slowdown akin to a fluid approaching a glass transition upon increasing confinement, and freezing under confinement would require substantial subcooling below the bulk melting point of OMCTS.