Abstract The molecular dynamics method has been applied to investigate the conformations of n-butyl ligands immobilised onto an amorphous silica surface analogous to those utilised with silica-based RP-HPLC sorbents. Three systems were constructed which corresponded to ligand densities of 1.64, 2.67 and 3.69 μmol/m 2. A number of parameters related to the structure of the sorbent materials were derived in order to characterise the molecular properties of each system. These parameters included the hydrocarbon layer thickness, the frequency of gauche conformations, the distance distribution for carbon atoms and the diffusion coefficients of individual atoms in the n-butyl ligands. From these properties, the positions of chains with respect to the surface as well as their mobility were estimated. It was found that at higher densities, the n-butyl chains are predominantly perpendicular to the surface while at low density they are highly tilted or lying almost parallel to the surface. The degree of ligand flexibility decreased with increasing surface density. Mobility of individual carbon atoms as well as chain disorder increased with distance from the surface for all ligand densities. The simulated properties of n-butyl chains immobilised to a silica surface correlated well with results obtained by Fourier transform IR and 13C-cross polarisation magic angle spinning NMR experimental methods and statistical predictions of the behaviour of immobilised chains.