Isolating Chemical Reaction Mechanism as a Variable with Reactive Coarse-Grained Molecular Dynamics: Step-Growth versus Chain- Growth Polymerization

JJ Karnes and TH Weisgraber and CC Cook and DN Wang and JC Crowhurst and CA Fox and BS Harris and JS Oakdale and R Faller and M Shusteff, MACROMOLECULES, 56, 2225-2233 (2023).

DOI: 10.1021/acs.macromol.2c02069

We present a general approach to isolate chemical reaction mechanism as an independently controllable variable across chemically distinct systems. Modern approaches to reduce the computational expense of molecular dynamics simulations often group multiple atoms into a single "coarse-grained" interaction site, which leads to a loss of chemical resolution. In this work we convert this shortcoming into a feature and use identical coarse-grained models to represent molecules that share nonreactive characteristics but react by different mechanisms. As a proof of concept, we use this approach to simulate and investigate distinct, yet similar, trifunctional isocyanurate resin formulations that polymerize by either chain-or step-growth. Because the underlying molecular mechanics of these models are identical, all emergent differences are a function of the reaction mechanism only. We find that the microscopic morphologies resemble related all-atom simulations and that simulated mechanical testing reasonably agrees with experiment.

Return to Publications page