Investigations of the Intermolecular Forces between RDX and Polyethylene by Force-Distance Spectroscopy and Molecular Dynamics Simulations

DE Taylor and KE Strawhecker and ER Shanholtz and DC Sorescu and RC Sausa, JOURNAL OF PHYSICAL CHEMISTRY A, 118, 5083-5097 (2014).

DOI: 10.1021/jp5039317

The development of novel nanoenergetic materials with enhanced bulk properties requires an understanding of the intermolecular interactions occurring between molecular components. We investigate the surface interactions between 1,3,5-trinitro-1,3,5-triazacyclohexane (RDX) and polyethylene (PE) crystals on the basis of combined use of molecular dynamics (MD) simulations and force-distance spectroscopy, in conjunction with Lifshitz macroscopic theory of van der Waals forces between continuous materials. The binding energy in the RDX-PE system depends both on the degree of PE crystallinity and on the RDX crystal face. Our MD simulations yield binding energies of approximately 132 and 120 mJ/m(2) for 100% amorphous and 100% crystalline PE on RDX (210), respectively. The average value is about 36% greater than our experimental value of 81 +/- 15 mJ/m(2) for PE (similar to 48% amorphous) on RDX (210). By comparison, Liftshitz theory predicts a value of about 79 mJ/m(2) for PE interacting with RDX. Our MD simulations also predict larger binding energies for both amorphous and crystalline PE on RDX (210) compared to the RDX (001) surface. Analysis of the interaction potential indicates that about 60% of the binding energy in the PE-RDX system is due to attractive interactions between H-PE-O-RDX and C-PE-N-RDX pairs of atoms. Further, amorphous PE shows a much longer interaction distance than crystalline PE with the (210) and (001) RDX surfaces due to the possibility of larger polymer elongations in the case of amorphous PE as strain is applied. Also, we report estimates of the binding energies of energetic materials RDX and octahydro-1,3,5,7-tetranitro-1,3,5,7-tetrazocine (HMX) with PE, propylene, polystyrene, and several fluorine-containing polymers using Lifshitz theory and compare these with reported MD calculations.

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