Simulations on the thermal decomposition of a poly(dimethylsiloxane) polymer using the ReaxFF reactive force field

Kimberly Chenoweth, Sam Cheung, Adri C.T. Van Duin, William A. Goddard, Edward M. Kober

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To investigate the failure of the poly(dimethylsiloxane) polymer (PDMS) at high temperatures and pressures and in the presence of various additives, we have expanded the ReaxFF reactive force field to describe carbon-silicon systems. From molecular dynamics (MD) simulations using ReaxFF we find initial thermal decomposition products of PDMS to be CH3 radical and the associated polymer radical, indicating that decomposition and subsequent cross-linking of the polymer is initiated by Si-C bond cleavage, in agreement with experimental observations. Secondary reactions involving these CH 3 radicals lead primarily to formation of methane. We studied temperature and pressure dependence of PDMS decomposition by following the rate of production of methane in the ReaxFF MD simulations. We tracked the temperature dependency of the methane production to extract Arrhenius parameters for the failure modes of PDMS. Furthermore, we found that at increased pressures the rate of PDMS decomposition drops considerably, leading to the formation of fewer CH3 radicals and methane molecules. Finally, we studied the influence of various additives on PDMS stability. We found that the addition of water or a SiO2 slab has no direct effect on the short-term stability of PDMS, but addition of reactive species such as ozone leads to significantly lower PDMS decomposition temperature. The addition of nitrogen monoxide does not significantly alter the degradation temperature but does retard the initial production of methane and C2 hydrocarbons until the nitrogen monoxide is depleted. These results, and their good agreement with available experimental data, demonstrate that ReaxFF provides a useful computational tool for studying the chemical stability of polymers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)7192-7202
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of the American Chemical Society
Issue number19
StatePublished - May 18 2005

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Catalysis
  • General Chemistry
  • Biochemistry
  • Colloid and Surface Chemistry


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