On the mechanism of soot nucleation. II. E-bridge formation at the PAH bay†
A recently proposed mechanism of soot nucleation (M. Frenklach and A. M. Mebel, Phys. Chem. Chem. Phys., 2020, 22, 5314–5331) based upon the formation of a rotationally-activated dimer in the collision of an aromatic molecule and a radical leading to a stable, doubly-bonded E-bridge between them, rooted in the existence of a five-membered ring on the molecule edge, has been further investigated with a focus on the 5-6 E-bridge forming in the reaction of a PAH cyclopenta group with a bay site of another PAH. As a prototype reaction of this kind, we examined the reaction between 4-phenanthrenyl and acenaphthylene and, to project these results to larger aromatic structures, we also explored the size effect of the E-bridge forming reactions by computing the 1-naphthyl + acenaphthylene system and comparing these results with the prior results for pyrenyl + acepyrene. The two systems have been studied through high-level G3(MP2,CC)//B3LYP/6-311G(d,p) ab initio calculations of their potential energy surfaces combined with the RRKM/Master Equation calculations of reaction rate constants. With PAH monomers of similar sizes involved, the formation of E-bridge structures at the bay radical sites appeared to be faster and lead to increased nucleation rates as compared to the zigzag-forming ones. A model combining both the bay and zigzag rotationally-induced formation of E-bridges successfully reaches the level of nucleation fluxes comparable to those of the irreversible pyrene dimerization, thus affirming the rotationally-activated dimerization as a feasible mechanism for soot particle nucleation.