Monte Carlo simulation of aqueous dilute solutions of polyhydric alcohols

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Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University


In order to investigate the details of hydrogen bonding and solution molecular conformation of complex alcohols in water, isobaric-isothermal Monte Carlo simulations were carried out on several systems. The solutes investigated were ethanol, ethylene glycol, 1,2-propylene glycol, 1,3-propylene glycol and glycerol. In addition, propane, which does not hydrogen bond but does form water hydrates, was simulated in aqueous solution. The complex alcohol-water systems are very nonideal in their behavior as a function of solute concentration down to very dilute solutions. The water model employed was TIP4P water¹ and the intermolecular potentials employed are of the Jorgensen type² in which the interactions between the molecules are represented by interaction sites usually located on nuclei. The interactions are represented by a sum of Coulomb and Lennard-Jones terms between all intermolecular pairs of sites. Intramolecular rotations in the solute are modeled by torsional potential energy functions taken from ethanol, 1-propanol and 2-propanol for C-O and C-C bond rotations. Quasi-component pair correlation functions were used to analyze the hydrogen bonding. Hydrogen bonds were classified as proton acceptor and proton donor bonds by analyzing the nearest neighbor pair correlation function between hydroxyl oxygen and hydrogen and between solvent-water hydrogen and oxygen.

The results obtained for partial molar heats of solution are more negative than the experimental values by 3.0 to 14 kcal/mol. In solution, all solutes reached a contracted molecular geometry with the OH groups generally on one side of the molecule. There is a tendency for the solute OH groups to hydrogen bond with water, with more proton acceptor bonds than proton donor bonds. The water-solute binding energies correlate with experimental measurements of the water-binding properties of the solute.

  1. Jorgensen, W.L. et al, J. Chem. Phys., 79, 926 (1983).

  2. Jorgensen, W.L., J. Phys Chem., 87, 5304 (1983).