Ordering, flexibility and frustration in arrays of porphyrin nanorings

A Summerfield and M Baldoni and DV Kondratuk and HL Anderson and S Whitelam and JP Garrahan and E Besley and PH Beton, NATURE COMMUNICATIONS, 10, 2932 (2019).

DOI: 10.1038/s41467-019-11009-y

The regular packing of atoms, molecules and nanoparticles provides the basis for the understanding of structural order within condensed phases of matter. Typically the constituent particles are considered to be rigid with a fixed shape. Here we show, through a combined experimental and numerical study of the adsorption of cyclic porphyrin polymers, nanorings, on a graphite surface, that flexible molecules can exhibit a rich and complex packing behaviour. Depending on the number of porphyrin sub-units within the nanoring we observe either a highly ordered hexagonal phase or frustrated packing driven by directional interactions which for some arrangements is combined with the internal deformation of the cyclic polymer. Frustration and deformation occur in arrays of polymers with ten sub-units since close packing and co-alignment of neighbouring groups cannot be simultaneously realised for nanorings with this internal symmetry.

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