Combining random walk and regression models to understand solvation in multi-component solvent systems

Ella Gale, Marcus Johns, Remigius Wirawan, Janet Scott

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)
239 Downloads (Pure)


Polysaccharides, such as cellulose, are often processed by dissolution in solvent mixtures, e.g. an ionic liquid (IL) combined with a dipolar aprotic co-solvent (CS) that the polymer does not dissolve in. A multi-walker, discrete-time, discrete-space 1-dimensional random walk can be applied to model solvation of a polymer in a multi-component solvent mixture. The number of IL pairs in a solvent mixture and the number of solvent shells formable, x, is associated with n, the model time-step, and N, the number of random walkers. The mean number of distinct sites visited is proportional to the amount of polymer soluble in a solution. By also fitting a polynomial regression model to the data, we can associate the random walk terms with chemical interactions between components and probe where the system deviates from a 1-D random walk. The ‘frustration’ between solvents shells is given as ln x in the random walk model and as a negative IL:IL interaction term in the regression model. This frustration appears in regime II of the random walk model (high volume fractions of IL) where walkers interfere with each other, and the system tends to its limiting behaviour. In the low concentration regime, (regime I) the solvent shells do not interact, and the system depends only on IL and CS terms. In both models (and both regimes), the system is almost entirely controlled by the volume available to solvation shells, and thus is a counting/space-filling problem, where the molar volume of the CS is important. Small deviations are observed when there is an IL–CS interaction. The use of two models, built on separate approaches, confirm these findings, demonstrating that this is a real effect and offering a route to identifying such systems. Specifically, the majority of CSs – such as dimethylformide – follow the random walk model, whilst 1-methylimidazole, dimethyl sulfoxide, 1,3-dimethyl-2-imidazolidinone and tetramethylurea offer a CS-mediated improvement and propylene carbonate results in a CS-mediated hindrance. It is shown here that systems, which are very complex at a molecular level, may, nonetheless, be effectively modelled as a simple random walk in phase-space. The 1-D random walk model allows prediction of the ability of solvent mixtures to dissolve cellulose based on only two dissolution measurements (one in neat IL) and molar volume.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)17805-17815
Number of pages11
JournalPhysical Chemistry Chemical Physics
Issue number27
Early online date21 Jun 2017
Publication statusPublished - 21 Jun 2017


  • Random walks
  • Regression analysis
  • Cellulose
  • Ionic liquid
  • Organic electrolyte solutions (OESs)


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