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Multilayer stacks of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons


Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) show promise for applications in functional devices such as organic photovoltaics and field-effect transistors, but, although nanometre-sized PAHs—often referred to as nanographenes—have been well investigated as single-layer molecules, their multilayer counterparts remain rather unexplored. Here we show the assembly of a C64 nanographene derivative (comprising a planar core decorated with four meta-terphenyl–imide moieties at its periphery) into multilayer stacks with smaller PAHs ranging from naphthalene to ovalene and hexabenzocoronene. The functionalized C64 nanographene serves as a ditopic host that can accommodate a smaller PAH on either side of its planar core, in cavities delimited by its bulky imide substituents. Bilayers and trilayers (that is, complexes with 1:1 and 1:2 host:guest ratios, respectively) were observed in solution, and dimers of these complexes as well as multilayer compounds were isolated in the solid state. Quantum-chemical calculations indicate that dispersion forces are the main stabilizing factor for these complexes.

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Fig. 1: Design and synthesis of the C64 nanographene host for the construction of multilayer nanographenes and schematic illustration of the formation process of multilayer nanographene complexes.
Fig. 2: Supramolecular multilayer nanographene complexes comprising C64 nanographene 1 and coronene.
Fig. 3: 1H NMR, UV–vis and fluorescence titration experiments of host 1 with guest coronene.
Fig. 4: ALMO-EDA plots for multilayer nanographene structures.

Data availability

Crystallographic data for the structures in this Article have been deposited at the Cambridge Crystallographic Data Centre under deposition nos. CCDC 2068629 (monolayer, 1), 2068630 (multilayer, [COR·1·COR]n), 2068631 (hexalayer, [COR·1·COR]2) and 2068632 (tetralayer, [COR·1·1·COR]). Copies of data can be obtained free of charge from Details of the synthesis and crystallographic analyses, UV–vis and fluorescence spectra, traces of cyclic and differential pulse voltammetry, plots of NMR titration and variable-temperature NMR experiments, DOSY NMR spectra, traces of ITC experiments and a description of the computational experiments are provided in the Supplementary Information. Source data are provided with this paper.


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We thank the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) for financial support (grant no. WU 317/20-2).

Author information

Authors and Affiliations



F.W. initiated and supervised the entire work. M.M. performed the synthesis and complexation experiments. M.M. and M.A.N. grew the single crystals for crystallographic analysis. K.S. conducted the crystallographic measurements and analysis. M.A.N. and K.S. conducted the DFT calculations. All authors contributed to writing the manuscript.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Frank Würthner.

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The authors declare no competing interests.

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Nature Chemistry thanks the anonymous reviewers for their contribution to the peer review of this work.

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Supplementary information

Supplementary Information

Details of synthesis, crystallographic analysis and computation. Supplementary Figs. 1–22 and Tables 1–15.

Supplementary Data 1

Crystal structure of monolayer 1; CCDC 2068629.

Supplementary Data 2

Crystal structure of polylayer _(COR-1-COR)n; CCDC 2068630.

Supplementary Data 3

Crystal structure of hexalayer (COR-1-COR)2; CCDC 2068631.

Supplementary Data 4

Crystal structure of tetralayer COR-1-1-COR; CCDC 2068632.

Supplementary Source Data 1

Source Data Supplementary Figs. 7, 11a–d, 12a–c, 13b–d, 14a–c and 15. Fit of proton-signals from a 1H NMR titration experiment. Fit of UV–vis titration experiments of nanographene 1 in chloroform solutions. Fit of fluorescence titration experiments of nanographene 1 in chloroform solutions. Comparison of the average Gibbs free energies from UV–vis and fluorescence titration experiments with different guest molecules.

Source data

Source Data Fig. 4

Computed values of interaction energies from ALMO-EDA.

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Mahl, M., Niyas, M.A., Shoyama, K. et al. Multilayer stacks of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. Nat. Chem. 14, 457–462 (2022).

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