Application of Emerging Computational Chemistry Tools to the Study of the Kinetics and Dynamics of Chemical Systems of Interest in Combustion and Catalysis

  • Edwing Grajales Gonzalez

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


Despite comprehensive studies addressing the chemical kinetics of butanol isomers, relevant uncertainties associated with the emissions of relevant pollutants persists. Also, a lack of chemistry knowledge of processes designed to produce biofuels limits their implementation at industrial scales. Therefore, the first objective of this thesis was to use cutting-edge kinetic theories to calculate rate constants of propen-2-ol, 1-pronenol, and vinyl alcohol keto-enol tautomerizations, which account for the production of the harmful carbonyl species. The second objective was to use the predictive capabilities of dynamic theories to reveal new chemistry of syngas oxy-combustion in supercritical CO2 and complexities of the zeolite dealumination, two processes involved in coal and biomass conversion. Rate constants computations considered transition state theory with variational effects, tunneling correction, and multistructural torsional anharmonicity. The study also included pressure effects by using and improving the system-specific quantum Rice-Ramsperger-Kassel/modified strong collision model. The atomistic simulations used ReaxFF force fields in hydrogen/oxygen/carbon monoxide/ carbon dioxide mixtures to represent the syngas system and an MFI zeolite with different water loading to model the dealumination. The results show that the studied assisted tautomerizations have much lower energy barriers than the unimolecular process. However, the “catalytic” effect is efficient only if the partner molecule is at high concentrations. Pressure effects are pronounced in the chemically activated tautomerizations, and the improved algorithm to compute pressure-dependent rate constants overcomes the initial difficulties associated with its application to C3 or larger molecules at temperatures above 800-1000 K. Reactive molecular dynamics simulations revealed the role of CO2 as an initiator in the syngas oxy-combustion and a new step involving the formation of formic acid. Those simulations for the zeolite dealumination process also showed that proton transfer, framework flexibility, and aluminum dislodging mediated by silicon reactions are complex dynamic phenomena determining the process. These aspects complement the dealumination theory uncovered so far and establish new paths in the study of water-zeolite interactions. Overall, the rate constants computed in this work reduce relevant uncertainties in the chemical kinetic mechanisms of alcohol oxidation, and the molecular dynamics simulations broaden the chemical knowledge of processes aimed at the utilization of alternative energy resources.
Date of AwardAug 21 2023
Original languageEnglish (US)
Awarding Institution
  • Physical Sciences and Engineering
SupervisorMani Sarathy (Supervisor)


  • butanol isomers
  • keto-enol tautomerization
  • kinetic theories
  • dynamic theories
  • syngas oxy-combustion
  • zeolite dealumination
  • transition state theory
  • reactive molecular dynamics

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