During the carbonization process of raw polymer precursors, graphitic structures can evolve. The presence of these graphitic structures affects mechanical properties of the carbonized carbon fibers. To gain a better understanding of the chemistry behind the evolution of these structures, we performed atomistic-scale simulations using the ReaxFF reactive force field. Three different polymers were considered as a precursor: idealized ladder PAN (polyacrylonitrile), a proposed oxidized PAN, and poly(p-phenylene-2,6-benzobisoxazole). We determined the underlying molecular details of polymer conversion into a carbon fiber structure. Because these are C/H/O/N-based polymers, we first developed an improved force field for C/H/O/N chemistry based on the density functional theory data with a particular focus on N2 formation kinetics and its interactions with polymer-associated radicals formed during the carbonization process. Then, using this improved force field, we performed atomistic-scale simulations of the initial stage of the carbonization process for the considered polymers. On the basis of our simulation data, the molecular pathways for the formation of low-molecular-weight gas species and all-carbon ring formation were determined. We also examined the possible alignment of the developed all-carbon 6-membered ring clusters, which is crucial for the further graphitic structure evolution.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Physical and Theoretical Chemistry
- Surfaces, Coatings and Films
- Materials Chemistry