A Large-Scale Molecular Dynamics Study of the Divacancy Defect in Graphene

JM Leyssale and GL Vignoles, JOURNAL OF PHYSICAL CHEMISTRY C, 118, 8200-8216 (2014).

DOI: 10.1021/jp501028n

We report on the dynamical behavior of single divacancy defects in large graphene sheets as studied by extensive classical molecular dynamics (MD) simulations at high temperatures and static calculations. In the first part of the paper, the ability of the used interatomic potential to properly render the stability and dynamics (energy barriers) of such defects is validated against electronic structure calculations from the literature. Then, results from MD simulations are presented. In agreement with recent TEM studies, some mobility is observed through a series of Stone Wales-like bond rotations involving the 5-8-5, 555-777, and 5555-6-7777 reconstructions. Although these three structures are by far the most probable structures of the DV defect, not less than 18 other full reconstructions, including the experimentally observed 55-66-77 defect, were occasionally observed in the approximate to 1.5 mu s of MD trajectories analyzed in this work. Most of these additional reconstructions have moderate formation energies and can be formed by a bond rotation mechanism from one of the aforementioned structures, with a lower activation energy than the one required to form a Stone Wales defect in graphene. Therefore their future experimental observation is highly probable. The results presented here also suggest that the barrier to a conventional Stone Wales transformation (the formation of two pentagon/heptagon pairs from four hexagons) can be significantly reduced in the vicinity of an existing defect, strengthening a recently proposed melting mechanism for graphene based on the aggregation of Stone Wales defects. From a structural point of view, in addition to pentagons, heptagons, and octagons, these new DV reconstructions can also contain four- and nine-member rings and show a particularly large spatial extent of up to 13 rings (42 atoms) against three (14 atoms) for the original 5-8-5 defect.

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