Off-campus Michigan Tech users: To download campus access theses or dissertations, please use the following button to log in with your Michigan Tech ID and password: log in to proxy server

Non-Michigan Tech users: Please talk to your librarian about requesting this thesis or dissertation through interlibrary loan.

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics (PhD)

College, School or Department Name

Department of Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics

First Advisor

Gregory M. Odegard


The development of innovative carbon-based materials can be greatly facilitated by molecular modeling techniques. Although molecular modeling has been used extensively to predict elastic properties of materials, modeling of more complex phenomenon such as fracture has only recently been possible with the development of new force fields such as ReaxFF, which is used in this work. It is not fully understood what molecular modeling parameters such as thermostat type, thermostat coupling, time step, system size, and strain rate are required for accurate modeling of fracture. Selection of modeling parameters to model fracture can be difficult and non-intuitive compared to modeling elastic properties using traditional force fields, and the errors generated by incorrect parameters may be non-obvious. These molecular modeling parameters are systematically investigated and their effects on the fracture of well-known carbon materials are analyzed. It is determined that for coupling coefficients of 250 fs and greater do not result in substantial differences in the stress-strain response of the materials using any thermostat type. A time step of 0.5 fs of smaller is required for accurate results. Strain rates greater than 2.2 ns-1 are sufficient to obtain repeatable results with slower strain rates for the materials studied. The results of this study indicate that further refinement of the Chenoweth parameter set is required to accurately predict the mechanical response of carbon-based systems.

The ReaxFF has been used extensively to model systems in which bond breaking and formation occur. In particular ReaxFF has been used to model reactions of small molecules. Some elastic and fracture properties have been successfully modeled using ReaxFF in materials such as silicon and some metals. However, it is not clear if current parameterizations for ReaxFF are able to accurately reproduce the elastic and fracture properties of carbon materials. The stress-strain response of a new ReaxFF parameterization is compared to the previous parameterization and density functional theory results for well-known carbon materials. The new ReaxFF parameterization makes xv substantial improvements to the predicted mechanical response of carbon materials, and is found to be suitable for modeling the mechanical response of carbon materials.

Finally, a new material composed of carbon nanotubes within an amorphous carbon (AC) matrix is modeled using the ReaxFF. Various parameters that may be experimentally controlled are investigated such as nanotube bundling, comparing multi-walled nanotube with single-walled nanotubes, and degree of functionalization of the nanotubes. Elastic and fracture properties are investigated for the composite systems and compared to results of pure-nanotube and pure-AC models. It is found that the arrangement of the nanotubes and degree of crosslinking may substantially affect the properties of the systems, particularly in the transverse directions.