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Fullerenes from aromatic precursors by surface-catalysed cyclodehydrogenation


Graphite vaporization provides an uncontrolled yet efficient means of producing fullerene molecules. However, some fullerene derivatives or unusual fullerene species might only be accessible through rational and controlled synthesis methods. Recently, such an approach has been used1 to produce isolable amounts of the fullerene C60 from commercially available starting materials. But the overall process required 11 steps to generate a suitable polycyclic aromatic precursor molecule, which was then dehydrogenated in the gas phase with a yield of only about one per cent. Here we report the formation of C60 and the triazafullerene C57N3 from aromatic precursors using a highly efficient surface-catalysed cyclodehydrogenation process. We find that after deposition onto a platinum (111) surface and heating to 750 K, the precursors are transformed into the corresponding fullerene and triazafullerene molecules with about 100 per cent yield. We expect that this approach will allow the production of a range of other fullerenes and heterofullerenes2,3, once suitable precursors are available. Also, if the process is carried out in an atmosphere containing guest species, it might even allow the encapsulation of atoms or small molecules to form endohedral fullerenes4,5.

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Figure 1: Optimized geometrical structure of the C 57 H 33 N 3 molecule at the different stages of the process.
Figure 2: STM images of the cyclization process.
Figure 3: TPD experiment of the cyclodehydrogenation process.


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Authors acknowledge financial support from the national Spanish funding agency DGICYT-MEC (programmes MAT, CONSOLIDER and CTQ) and the ICIQ Foundation. Computer time was provided by the Spanish National Supercomputing Network at the MareNostrun (BSC) and Magerit (CESVIMA) supercomputers.

Author Contributions G.O. performed the experimental work related to the UHV system. G.B. performed the ab initio calculations. C.S.-S., R.C., M.F.L., C.R., F.J.P. and J.M. helped with STM-STS, TDS and XPS experiments and preliminary synchrotron radiation measurements. A.M.E and B.G.-L. designed and synthesized the planar precursors of (hetero)fullerenes. N.C. performed the mass spectrometry experiments. M.A.B. and J.O. wrote part of the calculation code and input and made preliminary calculations. The work was coordinated by B.G.-L. (chemistry), R.P. (theory) and J.A.M.-G. (experiment: UHV-STM molecular deposition, characterization and cyclization).

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Correspondence to Berta Gómez-Lor or José A. Martín-Gago.

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Otero, G., Biddau, G., Sánchez-Sánchez, C. et al. Fullerenes from aromatic precursors by surface-catalysed cyclodehydrogenation. Nature 454, 865–868 (2008).

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