ReaxFF reactive force field for molecular dynamics simulations of hydrocarbon oxidation

Kimberly Chenoweth, Adri C.T. Van Duin, William A. Goddard

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1988 Scopus citations


To investigate the initial chemical events associated with high-temperature gas-phase oxidation of hydrocarbons, we have expanded the ReaxFF reactive force field training set to include additional transition states and chemical reactivity of systems relevant to these reactions and optimized the force field parameters against a quantum mechanics (QM)-based training set. To validate the ReaxFF potential obtained after parameter optimization, we performed a range of NVT-MD simulations on various hydrocarbon/O2 systems. From simulations on methane/O2, o-xylene/O2, propene/O 2, and benzene/O2 mixtures, we found that ReaxFF obtains the correct reactivity trend (propene > o-xylene > methane > benzene), following the trend in the C-H bond strength in these hydrocarbons. We also tracked in detail the reactions during a complete oxidation of isolated methane, propene, and o-xylene to a CO/CO2/H2O mixture and found that the pathways predicted by ReaxFF are in agreement with chemical intuition and our QM results. We observed that the predominant initiation reaction for oxidation of methane, propene, and o-xylene under fuel lean conditions involved hydrogen abstraction of the methyl hydrogen by molecular oxygen forming hydroperoxyl and hydrocarbon radical species. While under fuel rich conditions with a mixture of these hydrocarbons, we observed different chemistry compared with the oxidation of isolated hydrocarbons including a change in the type of initiation reactions, which involved both decomposition of the hydrocarbon or attack by other radicals in the system. Since ReaxFF is capable of simulating complicated reaction pathways without any preconditioning, we believe that atomistic modeling with ReaxFF provides a useful method for determining the initial events of oxidation of hydrocarbons under extreme conditions and can enhance existing combustion models.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1040-1053
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Physical Chemistry A
Issue number5
StatePublished - Feb 7 2008

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry


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