## Abstract

Gas-phase dissociation of fluorine ($^1\sum^+_g$) molecules in an agron bath at 3000 K was studied by using the 3D Monte Carlo classical trajectory (3DMCCT) method. To assess the importance of the potential energy surface (PES) in such calculations, three surfaces, with a fixed, experimentally determined F$_2$ dissociation energy, were constructed. These surfaces span the existing experimental uncertainties in the shape of the F$_2$ potential. The first potential was the widest and softest; in the second potential the anharmonicity was minimized. The intermediate potential was constructed to `localize' anharmonicity in the energy range in which the collisions are most reactive. The remaining parameters for each PES were estimated from the best available data on interatomic potentials. By using the single uniform ensemble (SUE) method (Kutz, H. D. & Burns, G. J. chem. Phys. 72, 3652-3657 (1980)), large ensembles of trajectories (LET) were generated for the PES. Two such ensembles consisted of 30 000 trajectories each and the third of 26 200. It was found that the computed one-way-flux equilibrium rate coefficients (Widom, B. Science 148, 1555-1560 (1965)) depend in a systematic way upon the anharmonicity of the potential, with the most anharmonic potential yielding the largest rate coefficient. Steady-state reaction-rate constants, which correspond to experimentally observable rate constants, were calculated by the SUE method. It was determined that this method yields (for a given trajectory ensemble, PES and translational temperature) a unique steady-state rate constant, independent of the initial, arbitrarily chosen, state (Tolman, R. C. The principles of statistical mechanics, p. 17. Oxford University Press (1938)) of the LET, and consequently independent of the corresponding initial value of the reaction rate coefficient. For each initial state of the LET, the development of the steady-state rate constant from the equilibrium rate coefficient was smooth, monotonic, and consistent with the detailed properties of the PES. It was found that, although the increased anharmonicity of the F$_2$ potential enhanced the equilibrium rate coefficients, it also enhanced the non-equilibrium effects. As a result, the steady-state rate constants were found to be insensitive to the variation of the PES. Thus, the differences among the steady-state rate constants for the three potentials were of the order of their standard errors, which was about 15% or less. On the other hand, the calculated rate constants exceeded the experimental rate constant by a factor of five to six. Because within the limitations of classical mechanics the calculations were ab initio, it was tentatively concluded that the discrepancy of five to six is due to the use of classical mechanics rather than details of the PES structure.