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  1. Molecular dynamics simulations are used to demonstrate that a binary solvent can be used to stratify colloidal mixtures when the suspension is rapidly dried.

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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available November 14, 2024
  2. A method of simulating the drying process of a soft matter solution with an implicit solvent model by moving the liquid-vapor interface is applied to various solution films and droplets. For a solution of a polymer and nanoparticles, we observe “polymer-on-top” stratification, similar to that found previously with an explicit solvent model. Furthermore, “polymer-on-top” is found even when the nanoparticle size is smaller than the radius of gyration of the polymer chains. For a suspension droplet of a bidisperse mixture of nanoparticles, we show that core-shell clusters of nanoparticles can be obtained via the “small-on-outside” stratification mechanism at fast evaporation rates. “Large-on-outside” stratification and uniform particle distribution are also observed when the evaporation rate is reduced. Polymeric particles with various morphologies, including Janus spheres, core-shell particles, and patchy particles, are produced from drying droplets of polymer solutions by combining fast evaporation with a controlled interaction between the polymers and the liquid-vapor interface. Our results validate the applicability of the moving interface method to a wide range of drying systems. The limitations of the method are pointed out and cautions are provided to potential practitioners on cases where the method might fail. 
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  3. null (Ed.)
    Molecular dynamics simulations are used to investigate the conformations of a single polymer chain, represented by the Kremer-Grest bead-spring model, in a solution with a Lennard-Jones liquid as the solvent when the interaction strength between the polymer and solvent is varied. Results show that when the polymer-solvent interaction is unfavorable, the chain collapses as one would expect in a poor solvent. For more attractive polymer-solvent interactions, the solvent quality improves and the chain is increasingly solvated and exhibits ideal and then swollen conformations. However, as the polymer-solvent interaction strength is increased further to be more than about twice the strength of the polymer-polymer and solvent-solvent interactions, the chain exhibits an unexpected collapsing behavior. Correspondingly, for strong polymer-solvent attractions, phase separation is observed in the solutions of multiple chains. These results indicate that the solvent becomes effectively poor again at very attractive polymer-solvent interactions. Nonetheless, the mechanism of chain collapsing and phase separation in this limit differs from the case with a poor solvent rendered by unfavorable polymer-solvent interactions. In the latter, the solvent is excluded from the domain of the collapsed chains while in the former, the solvent is still present in the pervaded volume of a collapsed chain or in the polymer-rich domain that phase separates from the pure solvent. In the limit of strong polymer-solvent attractions, the solvent behaves as a glue to stick monomers together, causing a single chain to collapse and multiple chains to aggregate and phase separate. 
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  4. DNA functions only in aqueous environments and adopts different conformations depending on the hydration level. The dynamics of hydration water and hydrated DNA leads to rotating and oscillating dipoles that, in turn, give rise to a strong megahertz to terahertz absorption. Investigating the impact of hydration on DNA dynamics and the spectral features of water molecules influenced by DNA, however, is extremely challenging because of the strong absorption of water in the megahertz to terahertz frequency range. In response, we have employed a high-precision megahertz to terahertz dielectric spectrometer, assisted by molecular dynamics simulations, to investigate the dynamics of water molecules within the hydration shells of DNA as well as the collective vibrational motions of hydrated DNA, which are vital to DNA conformation and functionality. Our results reveal that the dynamics of water molecules in a DNA solution is heterogeneous, exhibiting a hierarchy of four distinct relaxation times ranging from ~8 ps to 1 ns, and the hydration structure of a DNA chain can extend to as far as ~18 A from its surface. The low-frequency collective vibrational modes of hydrated DNA have been identified and found to be sensitive to environmental conditions including temperature and hydration level. The results reveal critical information on hydrated DNA dynamics and DNA-water interfaces, which impact the biochemical functions and reactivity of DNA. 
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  5. null (Ed.)
    The ongoing coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic is a serious challenge faced by the global community. Physical scientists can help medical workers and biomedical scientists, engineers, and practitioners, who are working on the front line, to slow down and eventually contain the spread of the COVID-19 virus. This review is focused on the physicochemical characteristics, including composition, aerodynamics, and drying behavior of respiratory droplets as a complex and multicomponent soft matter system, which are the main carrier of the virus for interpersonal transmission. The distribution and dynamics of virus particles within a droplet are also discussed. Understanding the characteristics of virus-laden respiratory droplets can lead to better design of personal protective equipment, frequently touched surfaces such as door knobs and touchscreens, and filtering equipment for indoor air circulation. Such an understanding also provides the scientific basis of public policy, including social distancing rules and public hygiene guidelines, implemented by governments around the world. 
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