Bond breaking in epoxy systems: A combined QM/MM approach

SA Barr and GS Kedziora and AM Ecker and JC Moller and RJ Berry and TD Breitzman, JOURNAL OF CHEMICAL PHYSICS, 144, 244904 (2016).

DOI: 10.1063/1.4954507

A novel method to combine quantum mechanics (QM) and molecular mechanics has been developed to accurately and efficiently account for covalent bond breaking in polymer systems under high strain without the use of predetermined break locations. Use of this method will provide a better fundamental understanding of the mechano-chemical origins of fracture in thermosets. Since classical force fields cannot accurately account for bond breaking, and QM is too demanding to simulate large systems, a hybrid approach is required. In the method presented here, strain is applied to the system using a classical force field, and all bond lengths are monitored. When a bond is stretched past a threshold value, a zone surrounding the bond is used in a QM energy minimization to determine which, if any, bonds break. The QM results are then used to reconstitute the system to continue the classical simulation at progressively larger strain until another QM calculation is triggered. In this way, a QM calculation is only computed when and where needed, allowing for efficient simulations. A robust QM method for energy minimization has been determined, as well as appropriate values for the QM zone size and the threshold bond length. Compute times do not differ dramatically from classical molecular mechanical simulations.

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