A description of how reactions are defined in YAML input files. For additional information, see: YAML reaction documentation.

Common Attributes

Cantera supports a number of different types of reactions, including several types of homogeneous reactions, surface reactions, and electrochemical reactions. The reaction entries for all reaction types some common features. These general fields of a reaction entry are described first, followed by fields used for specific reaction types.

The Reaction Equation

The reaction equation, specified in the equation field of the reaction entry, determines the reactant and product stoichiometry. All tokens (species names, stoichiometric coefficients, +, and <=>) in the reaction equation must be separated with spaces. Some examples of correctly and incorrectly formatted reaction equations are shown below:

- equation: 2 CH2 <=> CH + CH3  # OK
- equation: 2 CH2<=>CH + CH3  # error - spaces required around '<=>''
- equation: 2CH2 <=> CH + CH3  # error - space required between '2' and 'CH2'
- equation: CH2 + CH2 <=> CH + CH3  # OK
- equation: 2 CH2 <=> CH+CH3  # error - spaces required around '+'

Whether the reaction is reversible or not is determined by the form of the equality sign in the reaction equation. If either <=> or = is found, then the reaction is regarded as reversible, and the reverse rate will be computed based on the equilibrium constant. If, on the other hand, => is found, the reaction will be treated as irreversible.

Reaction type

The type of the rate coefficient parameterization may be specified in the type field of the reaction entry. Available reaction types are:

  • elementary: A reaction with a rate constant parameterized by a modified Arrhenius expression

  • three-body: A reaction involving a third-body collision. Changed in Cantera 3.0: three body reactions are detected based on the reaction equation; the rate parameterization is independent. For three body reactions with Arrhenius rate parameterizations, specifying the "type" is optional.

  • falloff: A pressure-dependent reaction where the rate depends on the third-body concentration at low pressure but not at high pressure

  • chemically-activated: A pressure-dependent reaction where the rate depends on the third-body concentration at high pressure but not at low pressure

  • pressure-dependent-Arrhenius: A reaction rate parameterized by logarithmically interpolating between modified Arrhenius expressions at different pressures

  • Chebyshev: A reaction rate parameterized by a bivariate Chebyshev polynomial in pressure and temperature

  • Blowers-Masel: A reaction rate constant parameterized as a modified Arrhenius reaction with one additional bond energy parameter to scale the activation energy according to the enthalpy of the reaction (New in Cantera 2.6)

Additional parameters defining the rate constant for each of these reaction types are described in the documentation linked above.

The default parameterization is elementary. Reactions involving surface species are automatically identified as interface reactions, reactions involving surface species with specified type as Blowers-Masel are treated as interface-Blowers-Masel, and reactions involving charge transfer are automatically identified as electrochemical reactions.

Arrhenius Expressions

Most reaction types in Cantera are parameterized by one or more modified Arrhenius expressions, such as

\begin{equation*} A T^b e^{-E_a / RT} \end{equation*}

where \(A\) is the pre-exponential factor, \(T\) is the temperature, \(b\) is the temperature exponent, \(E_a\) is the activation energy, and \(R\) is the gas constant. Rates in this form can be written as YAML mappings. For example:

{A: 1.0e13, b: 0, E: 7.3 kcal/mol}

The units of \(A\) can be specified explicitly if desired. If not specified, they will be determined based on the quantity, length, and time units specified in the governing units fields. Since the units of \(A\) depend on the reaction order, the units of each reactant concentration (dependent on phase type and dimensionality), and the units of the rate of progress (different for homogeneous and heterogeneous reactions), it is usually best not to specify units for \(A\), in which case they will be computed taking all of these factors into account.

Note: if \(b \ne 0\), then the term \(T^b\) should have units of \(\mathrm{K}^b\), which would change the units of \(A\). This is not done, however, so the units associated with \(A\) are really the units for \(k_f\). One way to formally express this is to replace \(T^b\) by the non-dimensional quantity \([T/(1\;\mathrm{K})]^b\).

The key E is used to specify \(E_a\).

Duplicate Reactions

When a reaction is imported into a phase, it is checked to see that it is not a duplicate of another reaction already present in the phase, and normally an error results if a duplicate is found. But in some cases, it may be appropriate to include duplicate reactions, for example if a reaction can proceed through two distinctly different pathways, each with its own rate expression. Another case where duplicate reactions can be used is if it is desired to implement a reaction rate coefficient of the form:

\begin{equation*} k_f(T) = \sum_{n=1}^{N} A_n T^{b_n} \exp(-E_n/RT) \end{equation*}

While Cantera does not provide such a form for reaction rates, it can be implemented by defining \(N\) duplicate reactions, and assigning one rate coefficient in the sum to each reaction. By adding the field:

duplicate: true

to a reaction entry, then the reaction not only may have a duplicate, it must. Any reaction that specifies that it is a duplicate, but cannot be paired with another reaction in the phase that qualifies as its duplicate generates an error.

Negative Pre-exponential Factors

If some of the terms in the above sum have negative \(A_n\), this scheme fails, since Cantera normally does not allow negative pre-exponential factors. But if there are duplicate reactions such that the total rate is positive, then the fact that negative \(A\) parameters are acceptable can be indicated by adding the field:

negative-A: true

Reaction Orders

Explicit reaction orders different from the stoichiometric coefficients are sometimes used for non-elementary reactions. For example, consider the global reaction:

\begin{equation*} \mathrm{C_8H_{18} + 12.5 O_2 \rightarrow 8 CO_2 + 9 H_2O} \end{equation*}

the forward rate constant might be given as 1:

\begin{equation*} k_f = 4.6 \times 10^{11} [\mathrm{C_8H_{18}}]^{0.25} [\mathrm{O_2}]^{1.5} \exp\left(\frac{30.0\,\mathrm{kcal/mol}}{RT}\right) \end{equation*}

This reaction could be defined as:

- equation: C8H18 + 12.5 O2 => 8 CO2 + 9 H2O
  rate-constant: {A: 4.6e11, b: 0.0, Ea: 30.0 kcal/mol}
  orders: {C8H18: 0.25, O2: 1.5}

Special care is required in this case since the units of the pre-exponential factor depend on the sum of the reaction orders, which may not be an integer.

Note that you can change reaction orders only for irreversible reactions.

Negative Reaction Orders

Normally, reaction orders are required to be positive. However, in some cases negative reaction orders provide better fits for experimental data. In these cases, the default behavior may be overridden by adding the negative-orders field to the reaction entry. For example:

- equation: C8H18 + 12.5 O2 => 8 CO2 + 9 H2O
  rate-constant: {A: 4.6e11, b: 0.0, Ea: 30.0 kcal/mol}
  orders: {C8H18: -0.25, O2: 1.75}
  negative-orders: true

Non-reactant Orders

Some global reactions could have reactions orders for non-reactant species. In this case, the nonreactant-orders field must be added to the reaction entry:

- equation: C8H18 + 12.5 O2 => 8 CO2 + 9 H2O
  rate-constant: {A: 4.6e11, b: 0.0, Ea: 30.0 kcal/mol}
  orders: {C8H18: -0.25, CO: 0.15}
  negative-orders: true
  nonreactant-orders: true



C. K. Westbrook and F. L. Dryer. Simplified reaction mechanisms for the oxidation of hydrocarbon fuels in flames. Combustion Science and Technology 27, pp. 31--43. 1981.