Simulation of the random scission of C-C bonds in the initial stage of the thermal degradation of polyethylene


We performed molecular dynamics simulations to analyze the initial stage of the thermal degradation of polyethylene, which is dominated by the random scission reaction. The simulations were initiated from structures that were taken from previously equilibrated snapshots of the amorphous polymer and of a free-standing thin film. Isolated chains were also used for comparison. Our systems were coupled to a thermal heat bath, and the effect of different coupling constants was studied. Rate of random scission increases as the strength of the temperature coupling increases. Rates of reaction are almost similar in thin films and the bulk, whereas the rates are much faster in isolated chains. Expansion of the free-standing thin film accompanies degradation, producing fragments of various sizes. Chains of higher molecular weights than the initial chains can be produced due to recombination of fragments during the expansion of thin films. The polydispersity index of the resulting fragments is higher in thin films compared to the bulk. The bonds at the low density portion of the thin films have a higher probability of being broken. (C) 2000 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.

Publication Title

Computational and Theoretical Polymer Science