Molecular modeling of the microstructure evolution during carbon fiber processing

S Desai and CY Li and TT Shen and A Strachan, JOURNAL OF CHEMICAL PHYSICS, 147, 224705 (2017).

DOI: 10.1063/1.5000911

The rational design of carbon fibers with desired properties requires quantitative relationships between the processing conditions, microstructure, and resulting properties. We developed a molecular model that combines kinetic Monte Carlo and molecular dynamics techniques to predict the microstructure evolution during the processes of carbonization and graphitization of polyacrylonitrile (PAN)-based carbon fibers. The model accurately predicts the cross-sectional microstructure of the fibers with the molecular structure of the stabilized PAN fibers and physics-based chemical reaction rates as the only inputs. The resulting structures exhibit key features observed in electron microcopy studies such as curved graphitic sheets and hairpin structures. In addition, computed X-ray diffraction patterns are in good agreement with experiments. We predict the transverse moduli of the resulting fibers between 1 GPa and 5GPa, in good agreement with experimental results for high modulus fibers and slightly lower than those of high-strength fibers. The transverse modulus is governed by sliding between graphitic sheets, and the relatively low value for the predicted microstructures can be attributed to their perfect longitudinal texture. Finally, the simulations provide insight into the relationships between chemical kinetics and the final microstructure; we observe that high reaction rates result in porous structures with lower moduli. Published by AIP Publishing.

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