Coarse-grained molecular dynamics integrated with convolutional neural network for comparing shapes of temperature sensitive bottlebrushes

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Nature Portfolio

Quantification of shape changes in nature-inspired soft material architectures of stimuli-sensitive polymers is critical for controlling their properties but is challenging due to their softness and flexibility. Here, we have computationally designed uniquely shaped bottlebrushes of a thermosensitive polymer, poly(N-isopropylacrylamide) (PNIPAM), by controlling the length of side chains along the backbone. Coarse-grained molecular dynamics simulations of solvated bottlebrushes were performed below and above the lower critical solution temperature of PNIPAM. Conventional analyses (free volume, asphericity, etc.) show that lengths of side chains and their immediate environments dictate the compactness and bending in these architectures. We further developed 100 unique convolutional neural network models that captured molecular-level features and generated a statistically significant quantification of the similarity between different shapes. Thus, our study provides insights into the shapes of complex architectures as well as a general method to analyze them. The shapes presented here may inspire the synthesis of new bottlebrushes.

nanoparticle shape, configurational entropy, conformational transitions, x-ray, polymers, model, water, macromolecules, recognition, simulations