Initial stage of titanium oxidation in Ti/CuO thermites: a molecular dynamics study using ReaxFF forcefields

H Jabraoui and A Esteve and SW Hong and C Rossi, PHYSICAL CHEMISTRY CHEMICAL PHYSICS, 25, 11268-11277 (2023).

DOI: 10.1039/d3cp00032j

The paper elucidates the main driving mechanisms at play during the early stage of the Ti/CuO thermite reaction using reactive forcefields in the frame of molecular dynamics calculations. Results show that TiO preferentially forms in immediate contact to pure Ti at temperatures as low as 200 K rather than TiO2. Increasing the temperature to 700 K, the 2 nm TiO2 in contact to Ti is found to be homogeneously depleted from half of its oxygen atoms. Also, the first signs of CuO decomposition are observed at 600 K, in correlation with the impoverishment in oxygen atom reaching the titanium oxide layer immediately in contact to CuO. Further quantification of the oxygen and titanium mass transport at temperatures above 700 K suggests that mostly oxygen atoms migrate from and across the titanium oxide interfacial layer to further react with the metallic titanium fuel reservoir. This scenario is opposed to the one of the Al/CuO system, for which the mass transport is dominated by the Al fuel diffusion across alumina. Further comparison of both thermites sheds light on the enhanced reactivity of the Ti-based thermite, for which CuO decomposition is promoted at lower temperature, and offers a novel understanding of thermite initiation at large.

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