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Dynamic High Pressure Study of Chemistry and Physics of Molecular Materials


Both temperature and pressure control and influence the packing of molecules in crystalline phases. Our molecular simulations indicate that at ambient pressure, the cubic polymorph of tetracyanoethylene, TCNE, is the energetically stable form up to ~ 160 K. The observed transition from the cubic to the monoclinic polymorph occurs however only at temperatures above ~ 318 K due to the large transition barrier. The temperature-induced phase transition in TCNE studied with high-resolution IR spectroscopy is explained in terms of the increased vibrational entropy in the crystals of the monoclinic polymorph.

Based upon the inverted design of the Merril-Bassett Diamond Anvil Cell, an improved, second generation dynamic Diamond Anvil Cell was developed. Based on the fluorescence of ruby crystals, we were able to demonstrate that the pressure variation range can be further increased at least up to 7 kbar and that the dynamic pressure compression of up to 1400 GPa/s can be achieved.

A new class of mechanophoric system, bis-anthracene, BA, and its photoisomer, PI, is shown to respond reversibly to a mild, static pressure induced by a Diamond Anvil Cell as well as to shear deformation based on absorption spectroscopic measurements. The forward reaction occurs upon illumination with light while the back-reaction may be accelerated upon heating or mechanical stress, coupled to a rehybridization on four equivalent carbon atoms. It is an intriguing result as high pressure stabilizes the photodimerized species in related systems. Our molecular volume simulations ruled out significant differences in the volumes between bis-anthracene and its photoisomer. Kinetic absorption measurements at several different pressures reveal a negative volume of activation in the exothermic back-reaction at room temperature. Through a series of temperature-dependent kinetic measurements it is shown that the barrier of activation for the back-reaction is reduced by more than an order of magnitude at several kbar pressure. Results are compared to the photoisomer of 9-anthroic anhydride and to the Dewar photoisomer. A two-step model involving the transition state is proposed for the pressure-induced PI-to-BA conversion, explaining the mechanism of the reaction occurring upon the application of homogeneous stress.

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