Detailed mechanistic modeling of high-density polyethylene pyrolysis: Low molecular weight product evolution

Seth E. Levine, Linda J. Broadbelt*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

120 Scopus citations


A detailed, mechanistic model for high-density polyethylene pyrolysis was created based on the modeling framework developed in our previous work and was used to study the time evolution of low molecular weight products formed. Specifically, the role that unzipping, backbiting, and random scission reaction pathways play in the evolution of low molecular weight species was probed. The model tracked 151 species and included over 11,000 reactions. Rate parameters were adapted from our previous work, literature values, and regression against experimental data. The model results were found to be in excellent agreement with experimental data for the evolution of condensable low molecular weight products. The time evolution curves of specific low molecular weight products indicated that the random scission pathway was important for all species, while the backbiting pathway played a complementary role. Net rate analysis was used to further elucidate the competition between the pathways. Net rate analysis of end-chain radicals showed that the unzipping pathway was not competitive with the other pathways, as expected based on experimental yields of ethylene. The random scission pathway was found to be controlling, with the backbiting pathway playing a more minor role for product formation. By comparing the net rates for formation of specific mid-chain radicals via intramolecular hydrogen shift reactions, the contribution of the backbiting pathway was shown to vary, with radicals formed via the most facile x,x + 4-intramolecular hydrogen transfer reactions being favored.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)810-822
Number of pages13
JournalPolymer Degradation and Stability
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2009


  • High-density
  • Kinetic modeling
  • Mechanistic modeling
  • Method of moments
  • Pyrolysis
  • polyethylene

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Mechanics of Materials
  • Polymers and Plastics
  • Materials Chemistry


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