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Concept: Density functional theory


The interaction between the inner atoms/cluster and the outer fullerene cage is the source of various novel properties of endohedral metallofullerenes. Herein, we introduce an adatom-type spin polarization defect on the surface of a typical endohedral stable U(2)@C(60) to predict the associated structure and electronic properties of U(2)@C(61) based on the density functional theory method. We found that defect induces obvious changes in the electronic structure of this metallofullerene. More interestingly, the ground state of U(2)@C(61) is nonet spin in contrast to the septet of U(2)@C(60). Electronic structure analysis shows that the inner U atoms and the C ad-atom on the surface of the cage contribute together to this spin state, which is brought about by a ferromagnetic coupling between the spin of the unpaired electrons of the U atoms and the C ad-atom. This discovery may provide a possible approach to adapt the electronic structure properties of endohedral metallofullerenes.

Concepts: Scientific method, Magnetic field, Quantum mechanics, Fundamental physics concepts, Density functional theory, Pauli exclusion principle, Fullerene, Metallofullerene


Coordinatively unsaturated (CUS) iron sites are highly active in catalytic oxidation reactions; however, maintaining the CUS structure of iron during heterogeneous catalytic reactions is a great challenge. Here, we report a strategy to stabilize single-atom CUS iron sites by embedding highly dispersed FeN4 centers in the graphene matrix. The atomic structure of FeN4 centers in graphene was revealed for the first time by combining high-resolution transmission electron microscopy/high-angle annular dark-field scanning transmission electron microscopy with low-temperature scanning tunneling microscopy. These confined single-atom iron sites exhibit high performance in the direct catalytic oxidation of benzene to phenol at room temperature, with a conversion of 23.4% and a yield of 18.7%, and can even proceed efficiently at 0°C with a phenol yield of 8.3% after 24 hours. Both experimental measurements and density functional theory calculations indicate that the formation of the Fe═O intermediate structure is a key step to promoting the conversion of benzene to phenol. These findings could pave the way toward highly efficient nonprecious catalysts for low-temperature oxidation reactions in heterogeneous catalysis and electrocatalysis.

Concepts: Electron, Electron microscope, Chemical reaction, Hydrogen, Catalysis, Hydrogenation, Density functional theory, Scanning tunneling microscope


Layered graphitic materials exhibit new intriguing electronic structure and the search for new types of two-dimensional (2D) monolayer is of importance for the fabrication of next generation miniature electronic and optoelectronic devices. By means of density functional theory (DFT) computations, we investigated in detail the structural, electronic, mechanical and optical properties of the single-layer bismuth iodide (BiI3) nanosheet. Monolayer BiI3 is dynamically stable as confirmed by the computed phonon spectrum. The cleavage energy (Ecl) and interlayer coupling strength of bulk BiI3 are comparable to the experimental values of graphite, which indicates that the exfoliation of BiI3 is highly feasible. The obtained stress-strain curve shows that the BiI3 nanosheet is a brittle material with a breaking strain of 13%. The BiI3 monolayer has an indirect band gap of 1.57 eV with spin orbit coupling (SOC), indicating its potential application for solar cells. Furthermore, the band gap of BiI3 monolayer can be modulated by biaxial strain. Most interestingly, interfacing electrically active graphene with monolayer BiI3 nanosheet leads to enhanced light absorption compared to that in pure monolayer BiI3 nanosheet, highlighting its great potential applications in photonics and photovoltaic solar cells.

Concepts: Photon, Optics, Density functional theory, Graphite, Solar cell, Photodiode, Band gap, Photonics


Under high pressure, krypton, one of the most inert elements is predicted to become sufficiently reactive to form a new class of krypton compounds; krypton oxides. Using modern ab-initio evolutionary algorithms in combination with Density Functional Theory, we predict the existence of several thermodynamically stable Kr/O species at elevated pressures. In particular, our calculations indicate that at approx. 300 GPa the monoxide, KrO, should form spontaneously and remain thermo- and dynamically stable with respect to constituent elements and higher oxides. The monoxide is predicted to form non-molecular crystals with short Kr-O contacts, typical for genuine chemical bonds.

Concepts: Fundamental physics concepts, Volume, Chemistry, Density functional theory, Chemical compound, Pressure


Organophosphorus nerve agents interfere with cholinergic signaling by covalently binding to the active site of the enzyme acetylcholinesterase (AChE). This inhibition causes an accumulation of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, potentially leading to overstimulation of the nervous system and death. Current treatments include the use of antidotes that promote the release of functional AChE by an unknown reactivation mechanism. We have used diffusion trap cryocrystallography and density functional theory (DFT) calculations to determine and analyze prereaction conformers of the nerve agent antidote HI-6 in complex with Mus musculus AChE covalently inhibited by the nerve agent sarin. These analyses reveal previously unknown conformations of the system and suggest that the cleavage of the covalent enzyme-sarin bond is preceded by a conformational change in the sarin adduct itself. Together with data from the reactivation kinetics, this alternate conformation suggests a key interaction between Glu202 and the O-isopropyl moiety of sarin. Moreover, solvent kinetic isotope effect experiments using deuterium oxide reveal that the reactivation mechanism features an isotope-sensitive step. These findings provide insights into the reactivation mechanism and provide a starting point for the development of improved antidotes. The work also illustrates how DFT calculations can guide the interpretation, analysis, and validation of crystallographic data for challenging reactive systems with complex conformational dynamics.

Concepts: Nervous system, Density functional theory, Neurotransmitter, Acetylcholine, Sarin, Deuterium, Acetylcholinesterase, Conformational isomerism


Interactions between catalytically active metal particles and reactant gases depend strongly on the particle size, particularly in the subnanometer regime where the addition of just one atom can induce substantial changes in stability, morphology, and reactivity. Here, time-lapse scanning tunneling microscopy (STM) and density functional theory (DFT)-based calculations are used to study how CO exposure affects the stability of Pt adatoms and subnano clusters at the Fe3O4(001) surface, a model CO oxidation catalyst. The results reveal that CO plays a dual role: first, it induces mobility among otherwise stable Pt adatoms through the formation of Pt carbonyls (Pt1-CO), leading to agglomeration into subnano clusters. Second, the presence of the CO stabilizes the smallest clusters against decay at room temperature, significantly modifying the growth kinetics. At elevated temperatures, CO desorption results in a partial redispersion and recovery of the Pt adatom phase.

Concepts: Electron, Fundamental physics concepts, Temperature, Density functional theory, Model theory, Microscopy, Scanning tunneling microscope, Ideal gas


Colloidal quantum dot (CQD) films allow large-area solution processing and bandgap tuning through the quantum size effect. However, the high ratio of surface area to volume makes CQD films prone to high trap state densities if surfaces are imperfectly passivated, promoting recombination of charge carriers that is detrimental to device performance. Recent advances have replaced the long insulating ligands that enable colloidal stability following synthesis with shorter organic linkers or halide anions, leading to improved passivation and higher packing densities. Although this substitution has been performed using solid-state ligand exchange, a solution-based approach is preferable because it enables increased control over the balance of charges on the surface of the quantum dot, which is essential for eliminating midgap trap states. Furthermore, the solution-based approach leverages recent progress in metal:chalcogen chemistry in the liquid phase. Here, we quantify the density of midgap trap states in CQD solids and show that the performance of CQD-based photovoltaics is now limited by electron-hole recombination due to these states. Next, using density functional theory and optoelectronic device modelling, we show that to improve this performance it is essential to bind a suitable ligand to each potential trap site on the surface of the quantum dot. We then develop a robust hybrid passivation scheme that involves introducing halide anions during the end stages of the synthesis process, which can passivate trap sites that are inaccessible to much larger organic ligands. An organic crosslinking strategy is then used to form the film. Finally, we use our hybrid passivated CQD solid to fabricate a solar cell with a certified efficiency of 7.0%, which is a record for a CQD photovoltaic device.

Concepts: Density, Volume, Condensed matter physics, Density functional theory, Semiconductor, Liquid, Solar cell, Photovoltaics


It is estimated that ∼2.7 million tons poly(carbonate)s (PCs) are produced annually worldwide. In 2008, retailers pulled products from store shelves after reports of bisphenol A (BPA) leaching from baby bottles, reusable drink bottles, and other retail products. Since PCs are not typically recycled, a need for the repurposing of the PC waste has arisen. We report the one-step synthesis of poly(aryl ether sulfone)s (PSUs) from the depolymerization of PCs and in situ polycondensation with bis(aryl fluorides) in the presence of carbonate salts. PSUs are high-performance engineering thermoplastics that are commonly used for reverse osmosis and water purification membranes, medical equipment, as well as high temperature applications. PSUs generated through this cascade approach were isolated in high purity and yield with the expected thermal properties and represent a procedure for direct conversion of one class of polymer to another in a single step. Computational investigations performed with density functional theory predict that the carbonate salt plays two important catalytic roles in this reaction: it decomposes the PCs by nucleophilic attack, and in the subsequent polyether formation process, it promotes the reaction of phenolate dimers formed in situ with the aryl fluorides present. We envision repurposing poly(BPA carbonate) for the production of value-added polymers.

Concepts: Water purification, Bisphenol A, Density functional theory, Carbonate


In the present work, we carried out density functional calculations of struvite - the main component of the so-called infectious urinary stones - to study its structural and elastic properties. Using a local density approximation and a generalised gradient approximation, we calculated the equilibrium structural parameters and elastic constants C ( ijkl ). At present, there is no experimental data for these elastic constants C ( ijkl ) for comparison. Besides the elastic constants, we also present the calculated macroscopic mechanical parameters, namely the bulk modulus (K), the shear modulus (G) and Young’s modulus (E). The values of these moduli are found to be in good agreement with available experimental data. Our results imply that the mechanical stability of struvite is limited by the shear modulus, G. The study also explores the energy-band structure to understand the obtained values of the elastic constants.

Concepts: Density functional theory, Young's modulus, Elasticity, Elastic modulus, Hooke's law, Local-density approximation, Shear modulus, Bulk modulus


Twistane, C10 H16 , is a classic D2 -symmetric chiral hydrocarbon that has been studied for decades due to its fascinating stereochemical and thermodynamic properties. Here we propose and analyze in detail the contiguous linear extension of twistane with ethano (ethane-1,2-diyl) bridges to create a new chiral, C2 -symmetric hydrocarbon nanotube called polytwistane. Polytwistane, (CH)n , has the same molecular formula as polyacetylene but is composed purely of C(sp(3) )H units, all of which are chemically equivalent. The polytwistane nanotube has the smallest inner diameter (2.6 Å) of hydrocarbons considered to date. A rigorous topological analysis of idealized polytwistane and a C236 H242 prototype optimized by B3LYP density functional theory reveals that the polymer has a nonrepeating, alternating σ-helix, with an irrational periodicity parameter and an instantaneous rise (or lead) angle near 15 °. A theoretical analysis utilizing homodesmotic equations and explicit computations as high as CCSD(T)/cc-pVQZ yields the enthalpies of formation ${{\rm{\Delta }}_f H_0^ \circ }$(twistane)=-1.7 kcal mol(-1) and ${{\rm{\Delta }}_f H_0^ \circ }$(polytwistane)= +1.28 kcal (mol CH)(-1) , demonstrating that the hypothetical formation of polytwistane from acetylene is highly exothermic. Hence, polytwistane is synthetically viable both on thermodynamic grounds and also because no obvious pathways exist for its rearrangement to lower-lying isomers. The present analysis should facilitate the preparation and characterization of this new chiral hydrocarbon nanotube.

Concepts: Scientific method, Physics, Thermodynamics, Density functional theory, Hydrocarbon, Methane, Hybrid functional, Acetylene