Structural Rearrangement of Energetic Materials under an External Electric Field: A Case Study of Nitromethane

Research paper by Yingzhe Liu, Yiding Ma, Tao Yu, Weipeng Lai, Wangjun Guo, Zhongxue Ge, Zhinan Ma

Indexed on: 28 Feb '18Published on: 13 Feb '18Published in: Journal of Physical Chemistry A


As a significant stimulus, the external electric field (EEF) can change the decomposition mechanism and energy release of energetic materials (EMs). Hence, understanding the response of EMs to an EEF is greatly meaningful for their safe usage. Herein, the structural arrangement, a crucial factor in the impact sensitivity and detonation performance of EMs, under the EEF ranging from 0.0 to 0.5 V/Å was investigated via molecular dynamics simulation. Nitromethane (NM) was taken as a case study due to the simple structure. The simulation results show that there exists a critical EEF strength between 0.2 and 0.3 V/Å, which can induce the transition of NM molecules from relatively disordered distribution to solidlike ordered and compacted arrangement with a large density. In this ordered structure, NM dipoles are aligned in a head-to-tail pattern parallel to the EEF direction because of the favored dipole–dipole interactions and weak C–H···O hydrogen bonds. As the EEF strength is enhanced, the potential energy and cohesive energy density of the NM system gradually decrease and increase, respectively, indicative of high thermodynamics stability of ordered arrangement. The results reported here also shed light on the potential of the EEF to induce the nucleation and crystallization to explore new polymorphs of EMs.

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