Computational Exploration of Polymer Mechanochemistry: Quantitation of Activation Force and Systematic Discovery of Reaction Sites Utilizing Two Forces



A series of mechanophores were studied computationally by employing the AFIR (Artificial Force Induced Reaction) method, which applies an artificial force on the molecule to trigger reactions, and meanwhile with a tensile force to simulate a mechanochemical reaction. The calculation results were both qualitatively and quantitatively consistent to those reported experimentally, indicating that the AFIR is a reliable approach to studying mechanochemical reactions. It was then applied to the study of retro-Diels-Alder reactions for the theoretical predictions of activation force levels which are currently unavailable. Moreover, it also helped to reveal the favored geometry for the enhancement of force effect. Later, the AFIR method was employed to study the mechanodegradation of generic polymers. The substituents effect and the polymer tacticity in strengthening the mechanical responsiveness, were highlighted by our study. Given the importance of cross-linker molecules in the double-network (DN) hydrogels, a fully automatic search of mechanochemical transformation pathways of a commonly used cross-linker molecule, N,N'-methylenebisacrylamide (MBAA), was also performed by the AFIR method. Through the work described in this article, we demonstrated that, in the field of polymer mechanochemistry, the AFIR method utilizing two forces is a simple but effective tool to give accurate predictions of activation force levels at any given timescale. In the meantime, the mechanistic study of mechanochemical reactions shown in this article is believed to provide insightful suggestions for the further design and application of mechanophores.


Supplementary material

Supporting Information
Figures S1-S24, derivation of the equation that correlates barrier height ΔΔE‡ and force strength τ, and Cartesian coordinates of optimized structures