Polyelectrolyte pK(a) from experiment and molecular dynamics simulation

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


  • Michael S. Bodnarchuk
  • Kay E. B. Doncom
  • Daniel B. Wright
  • David M. Heyes
  • Daniele Dini

Colleges, School and Institutes


The pKa of a polyelectrolyte has been determined experimentally by potentiometric titration and computed using Molecular Dynamics (MD) constant pH (CpH) methodology, which allows the pKa of each titratable site along the polymer backbone to be determined separately, a procedure which is not possible by current experimental techniques. By using experimental results within the CpHMD method, the simulations show that the protonation states of neighbouring residues are anti-correlated so that the charges are well-separated. As found with previous simulation studies on model polyelectrolytes, the end groups are predicted to be the most acidic. CpHMD is shown to result in distinct polymer conformations, brought about by the range of protonation states changes along the polymer; this can now be used in the design of pH-responsive polymers for, amongst other applications, additive formulation and drug delivery devices.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)20007-20014
JournalRSC Advances
Publication statusPublished - 5 Apr 2017