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Atomic scale mechanisms controlling the oxidation of polyethylene: A first principles study

Abstract : Understanding the degradation mechanisms of aliphatic polymers by thermal oxidation and radio-oxidation is very important in order to assess their lifetime in a variety of industrial applications. We focus here on polyethylene as a prototypical aliphatic polymer. Kinetic models describing the time evolution of the concentration of chain defects and radicals species in the material identify a relevant step in the formation and subsequent decomposition of transient hydroperoxides species, finally leading to carbonyl defects, in particular ketones. In this paper, we first summarize the most relevant mechanistic paths proposed in the literature for hydroperoxide formation and decomposition and, second, revisit them using first principles calculations based on Density Functional Theory (DFT). Our results partially confirm commonly accepted reaction energies, but also propose alternative, more favourable, reaction paths. We highlight the influence of the environment— crystalline or not—on the outcome of some of the studied chemical reactions. A remarkable result of our calculations is that hydroxyl radicals play an important role in the decomposition of hydroperox-ides. Based on our findings, it should be possible to improve the set of equations and parameters used in current kinetic simulations of polyethylene radio-oxidation.
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Submitted on : Thursday, July 22, 2021 - 9:43:26 AM
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Yunho Ahn, Xavier Colin, Guido Roma. Atomic scale mechanisms controlling the oxidation of polyethylene: A first principles study. Polymers, MDPI, 2021, 13 (13), pp.2143. ⟨10.3390/polym13132143⟩. ⟨hal-03295427⟩

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