Reaction mechanism for fluorination reactions with hydroxylated alumina sites: Pathways promoting aluminum combustion

Daniel Tunega, Michelle L. Pantoya, Reed Nieman, Hans Lischka, Adelia J.A. Aquino

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Density functional theory calculations were used to reveal the mechanism for the fluorination reaction of active Lewis acid sites on alumina structures, which is important in understanding the pyrophoric processes involving Al particles. In this reaction, hydroxyl groups of active sites are replaced by fluorine anions. Alumina structures were represented by three aluminum aqua hydroxo clusters (labeled AlOOH), in which the Al atom had different coordination spheres, particularly four, five, or six. The F-bearing molecules HF, CH3F, and CF4 were taken as reactants for the fluorination reactions. The overall reaction was represented by four reaction steps as follows: (i) formation of the reaction complex, (ii) activation of the transition state (TS), (iii) deactivation of the TS with a formation of the product complex, and (iv) its decomplexation to individual products. The active reaction center of the TS structure is four-membered, in which two bonds break heterolytically and two form. The lowest reaction barriers were observed for the HF molecule, while the two other molecules had significantly higher reaction barriers. Similarly, the largest overall reaction energies (in absolute value) were found for HF, especially for the five- A nd six-coordinated Al centers. While the positive charge on the Al center remained almost constant throughout the reaction steps, large charge changes were observed for carbon bearing molecules with a formation of the carbenium cations in the TS step. Realizing the important role of HF in promoting exothermic reactions will enable new molecular design strategies for transforming energy release properties of aluminum powder fuels.

Original languageEnglish
Article number0040189
JournalJournal of Chemical Physics
Issue number10
StatePublished - Mar 14 2021

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