Accurate ab initio prediction of propagation rate coefficients in free-radical polymerization: Acrylonitrile and vinyl chloride

Ekaterina I. Izgorodina, Michelle L. Coote

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

132 Citations (Scopus)


A systematic methodology for calculating accurate propagation rate coefficients in free-radical polymerization was designed and tested for vinyl chloride and acrylonitrile polymerization. For small to medium-sized polymer systems, theoretical reaction barriers are calculated using G3(MP2)-RAD. For larger systems, G3(MP2)-RAD barriers can be approximated (to within 1 kJ mol-1) via an ONIOM-based approach in which the core is studied at G3(MP2)-RAD and the substituent effects are modeled with ROMP2/6-311+G(3df,2p). DFT methods (including BLYP, B3LYP, MPWB195, BB1K and MPWB1K) failed to reproduce the correct trends in the reaction barriers and enthalpies with molecular size, though KMLYP showed some promise as a low cost option for very large systems. Reaction rates are calculated via standard transition state theory in conjunction with the one-dimensional hindered rotor model. The harmonic oscillator approximation was shown to introduce an error of a factor of 2-3, and would be suitable for "order-of-magnitude" estimates. A systematic study of chain length effects indicated that rate coefficients had largely converged to their long chain limit at the dimer radical stage, and the inclusion of the primary substituent of the penultimate unit was sufficient for practical purposes. Solvent effects, as calculated using the COSMO model, were found to be relatively minor. The overall methodology reproduced the available experimental data for both of these monomers within a factor of 2.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)96-110
Number of pages15
JournalChemical Physics
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 9 May 2006
Externally publishedYes


  • Ab initio molecular orbital theory
  • Acrylonitrile
  • Density functional theory
  • Free-radical polymerization
  • G3-theory
  • Propagation rate coefficients
  • Transition state theory
  • Vinyl chloride


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