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  1. Free, publicly-accessible full text available May 1, 2024
  2. Free energy evaluation in molecular simulations of both classical and quantum systems is computationally intensive and requires sophisticated algorithms. This is because free energy depends on the volume of accessible phase space, a quantity that is inextricably linked to the integration measure in a coordinate representation of a many-body problem. In contrast, the same problem expressed as a field theory (auxiliary field or coherent states) isolates the particle number as a simple parameter in the Hamiltonian or action functional and enables the identification of a chemical potential field operator. We show that this feature leads a “direct” method of free energy evaluation, in which a particle model is converted to a field theory and appropriate field operators are averaged using a field-theoretic simulation conducted with complex Langevin sampling. These averages provide an immediate estimate of the Helmholtz free energy in the canonical ensemble and the entropy in the microcanonical ensemble. The method is illustrated for a classical polymer solution, a block copolymer melt exhibiting liquid crystalline and solid mesophases, and a quantum fluid of interacting bosons. 
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  3. A facile way to generate compatibilized blends of immiscible polymers is through reactive blending of end-functionalized homopolymers. The reaction may be reversible or irreversible depending on the end-groups and is affected by the immiscibility and transport of the reactant homopolymers and the compatibilizing copolymer product. Here we describe a phase-field framework to model the combined dynamics of reaction kinetics, diffusion, and multi-component thermodynamics on the evolution of the microstructure and reaction rate in reactive blending. A density functional with no fitting parameters, which is obtained by adapting a framework of Uneyama and Doi and qualitatively agrees with self-consistent field theory, is used in a diffusive dynamics model. For a symmetric mixture of equal-length reactive polymers mixed in equal proportions, we find that depending on the Flory χ parameter, the microstructure of an irreversibly reacting blend progresses through a rich evolution of morphologies, including from two-phase coexistence to a homogeneous mixture, or a two-phase to three-phase coexistence transitioning to a homogeneous blend or a lamellar copolymer. The emergence of a three-phase region at high χ leads to a previously unreported reaction rate scaling. For a reversible reaction, we find that the equilibrium composition is a function of both the equilibrium constant for the reaction and the χ parameter. We demonstrate that phase-field models are an effective way to understand the complex interplay of thermodynamic and kinetic effects in a reacting polymer blend. 
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