Modeling the construction of polymeric adsorbent media: Effects of counter-ions on ligand immobilization and pore structure
Molecular dynamics modeling and simulations are employed to study the effects of counter-ions on the dynamic spatial density distribution and total loading of immobilized ligands as well as on the pore structure of the resultant ion exchange chromatography adsorbent media. The results show that the porous adsorbent media formed by polymeric chain molecules involve transport mechanisms and steric resistances which cause the charged ligands and counter-ions not to follow stoichiometric distributions so that (i) a gradient in the local nonelectroneutrality occurs, (ii) non-uniform spatial density distributions of immobilized ligands and counter-ions are formed, and (iii) clouds of counter-ions outside the porous structure could be formed. The magnitude of these counter-ion effects depends on several characteristics associated with the size, structure, and valence of the counter-ions. Small spherical counter-ions with large valence encounter the least resistance to enter a porous structure and their effects result in the formation of small gradients in the local nonelectroneutrality, higher ligand loadings, and more uniform spatial density distributions of immobilized ligands, while the formation of exterior counter-ion clouds by these types of counter-ions is minimized. Counter-ions with lower valence charges, significantly larger sizes, and elongated shapes, encounter substantially greater steric resistances in entering a porous structure and lead to the formation of larger gradients in the local nonelectroneutrality, lower ligand loadings, and less uniform spatial density distributions of immobilized ligands, as well as substantial in size exterior counter-ion clouds. The effects of lower counter-ion valence on pore structure, local nonelectroneutrality, spatial ligand density distribution, and exterior counter-ion cloud formation are further enhanced by the increased size and structure of the counter-ion. Thus, the design, construction, and functionality of polymeric porous adsorbent media will significantly depend, for a given desirable ligand to be immobilized and represent the adsorption active sites, on the type of counter-ion that is used during the ligand immobilization process. Therefore, the molecular dynamics modeling and simulation approach presented in this work could contribute positively by representing an engineering science methodology to the design and construction of polymeric porous adsorbent media which could provide high intraparticle mass transfer and adsorption rates for the adsorbate biomolecules of interest which are desired to be separated by an adsorption process.