He, Xiaoxia; Shen, Yan; Hung, Francisco R.; Santiso, Erik E.
Molecular simulation of homogeneous nucleation of crystals of an ionic liquid from the melt
JOURNAL OF CHEMICAL PHYSICS, 143 Art. No. 124506, SEP 28 2015

The homogeneous nucleation of crystals of the ionic liquid [dmim(+)][Cl-] from its supercooled liquid phase in the bulk (P = 1 bar, T = 340 K, representing a supercooling of 58 K) was studied using molecular simulations. The string method in collective variables [Maragliano et al., J. Chem. Phys. 125, 024106 (2006)] was used in combination with Markovian milestoning with Voronoi tessellations [Maragliano et al., J. Chem. Theory Comput. 5, 2589-2594 (2009)] and order parameters for molecular crystals [E. E. Santiso and B. L. Trout, J. Chem. Phys. 134, 064109 (2011)] to sketch a minimum free energy path connecting the supercooled liquid and the monoclinic crystal phases, and to determine the free energy and the rates involved in the homogeneous nucleation process. The physical significance of the configurations found along this minimum free energy path is discussed with the help of calculations based on classical nucleation theory and with additional simulation results obtained for a larger system. Our results indicate that, at a supercooling of 58 K, the liquid has to overcome a free energy barrier of the order of 60 kcal/mol and to form a critical nucleus with an average size of about 3.6 nm, before it reaches the thermodynamically stable crystal phase. A simulated homogeneous nucleation rate of 5.0 x 10(10) cm(-3) s(-1) was obtained for our system, which is in reasonable agreement with experimental and simulation rates for homogeneous nucleation of ice at similar degrees of supercooling. This study represents our first step in a series of studies aimed at understanding the nucleation and growth of crystals of organic salts near surfaces and inside nanopores. (C) 2015 AIP Publishing LLC.


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