Mechanistic model for quantifying the effect of impact force on mechanochemical reactivity. Academic Article uri icon


  • Conventional mechanochemical synthetic tools, such as ball mills, offer no methodology to quantitatively link macroscale reaction parameters, such as shaking frequency or milling ball radius, to fundamental drivers of reactivity, namely the force vectors applied to the reactive molecules. As a result, although mechanochemistry has proven to be a valuable method to make a wide variety of products, the results are seldom reproduceable between reactors, difficult to rationally optimize, and hard to ascribe to a specific reaction pathway. Here we have developed a controlled force reactor, which is a mechanochemical ball mill reactor with integrated force measurement and control during each impact. We relate two macroscale reactor parameters-impact force and impact time-to thermodynamic and kinetic transition state theories of mechanochemistry utilizing continuum contact mechanics principles. We demonstrate force controlled particle fracture of NaCl to characterize particle size evolution during reactions, and force controlled reaction between anhydrous copper(II) chloride and (1, 10) phenanthroline. During the fracture of NaCl, we monitor the evolution of particle size as a function of impact force and find that particles quickly reach a particle size of 100 m largely independent of impact force, and reach steady state 10-100 faster than reaction kinetics of typical mechanochemical reactions. We monitor the copper(II) chloride reactivity by measuring color change during reaction. Applying our transition state theory developed here to the reaction curves of copper(II) chloride and (1, 10) phenanthroline at multiple impact forces results in an activation energy barrier of 0.61 0.07 eV, distinctly higher than barriers for hydrated metal salts and organic ligands and distinctly lower than the direct cleavage of the CuCl bond, indicating that the reaction may be mediated by the higher affinity of Fe in the stainless steel vessel to Cl. We further show that the results in the controlled force reactor match rudimentary estimations of impact force within a commercial ball mill reactor Retsch MM400. These results demonstrate the ability to quantitatively link macroscale reactor parameters to reaction properties, motivating further work to make mechanochemical synthesis quantitative, predictable, and fundamentally insightful.

published proceedings

  • Phys Chem Chem Phys

author list (cited authors)

  • Nwoye, E., Raghuraman, S., Costales, M., Batteas, J., & Felts, J. R.

citation count

  • 0

complete list of authors

  • Nwoye, Emmanuel||Raghuraman, Shivaranjan||Costales, Maya||Batteas, James||Felts, Jonathan R

publication date

  • October 2023