Modelling the kinetics and structural property evolution of a versatile reaction: aqueous HCN polymerization

Fernández, A., Ruiz Bermejo, M., De la Fuente, J. L. 2018. Modelling the kinetics and structural property evolution of a versatile reaction: aqueous HCN polymerization. Physical Chemistry and Chemical Physics 20, 25, 17353-17366, DOI: 10.1039/c8cp01662c

The kinetics of the reaction of the synthesis of HCN polymers in aqueous medium at high temperatures have been analysed to ascertain a suitable model for this material, for which it was recently demonstrated that prebiotic chemistry may now be adapted in the development of a new generation of high performance coatings and adhesives with biomedical applications. These experimental conditions were chosen for the simplicity of the reagents, being particularly convenient in regard to potential industrial scale-up of coating technology, where these polymers have revealed an interesting field of application. The kinetics of the precipitation polymerization of HCN in water were studied under isothermal conditions at four different temperatures between 75 degrees C and 90 degrees C throughout gravimetric measurements. The use of the Kamal-Sourour autocatalytic kinetic model was proposed, properly describing the overall formation process of this insoluble HCN polymer. All of the kinetic parameters, including reaction orders, kinetic constants and activation energy, were determined for the cross-linking polymerization reaction under study, and a relevant autocatalysis effect was observed. An isoconversion method was also used to analyse the variation of the global activation energy with conversion; and characterization by means of elemental analysis, Fourier transform infrared (FTIR) spectroscopy, and scanning electron microscopy (SEM) was carried out. This study demonstrates the autocatalytic, robust and straightforward character of this heterogeneous aqueous HCN polymerization, and to the best of our knowledge, this report describes the first time that a systematic and extended kinetic analysis has been conducted to obtain a more comprehensive and deeper understanding of this complex reaction, which is of great interest to the origin of life and, currently, to materials science.

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