A force field for tricalcium aluminate to characterize surface properties, initial hydration, and organically modified interfaces in atomic resolution†
Tricalcium aluminate (C3A) is a major phase of Portland cement clinker and some dental root filling cements. An accurate all-atom force field is introduced to examine structural, surface, and hydration properties as well as organic interfaces to overcome challenges using current laboratory instrumentation. Molecular dynamics simulation demonstrates excellent agreement of computed structural, thermal, mechanical, and surface properties with available experimental data. The parameters are integrated into multiple potential energy expressions, including the PCFF, CVFF, CHARMM, AMBER, OPLS, and INTERFACE force fields. This choice enables the simulation of a wide range of inorganic–organic interfaces at the 1 to 100 nm scale at a million times lower computational cost than DFT methods. Molecular models of dry and partially hydrated surfaces are introduced to examine cleavage, agglomeration, and the role of adsorbed organic molecules. Cleavage of crystalline tricalcium aluminate requires approximately 1300 mJ m−2 and superficial hydration introduces an amorphous calcium hydroxide surface layer that reduces the agglomeration energy from approximately 850 mJ m−2 to 500 mJ m−2, as well as to lower values upon surface displacement. The adsorption of several alcohols and amines was examined to understand their role as grinding aids and as hydration modifiers in cement. The molecules mitigate local electric fields through complexation of calcium ions, hydrogen bonds, and introduction of hydrophobicity upon binding. Molecularly thin layers of about 0.5 nm thickness reduce agglomeration energies to between 100 and 30 mJ m−2. Molecule-specific trends were found to be similar for tricalcium aluminate and tricalcium silicate. The models allow quantitative predictions and are a starting point to provide fundamental understanding of the role of C3A and organic additives in cement. Extensions to impure phases and advanced hydration stages are feasible.
- This article is part of the themed collection: Layered Inorganic Solids