Products and Mechanism of Acene Dimerization. A Computational Study

The high reactivity of acenes can reduce their potential applications in the field of molecular electronics. Although pentacene is an important material for use in organic field-effect transistors because of its high charge mobility, its reactivity is a major disadvantage hindering the development of pentacene applications. In this study, several reaction pathways for the thermal dimerization of acenes were considered computationally. The formation of acene dimers via a central benzene ring and the formation of acene-based polymers were found to be the preferred pathways, depending on the length of the monomer. Interestingly, starting from hexacene, acene dimers are thermodynamically disfavored products, and the reaction pathway is predicted to proceed instead via a double cycloaddition reaction (polymerization) to yield acene-based polymers. A concerted asynchronous reaction mechanism was found for benzene and naphthalene dimerization, while a stepwise biradical mechanism was predicted for the dimerization of anthracene, pentacene, and heptacene. The biradical mechanism for dimerization of anthracene and pentacene proceeds via syn or anti transition states and biradical minima through stepwise biradical pathways, while dimerization of heptacene proceeds via asynchronous ring closure of the complex formed by two heptacene molecules. The activation barriers for thermal dimerization decrease rapidly with increasing acene chain length and are calculated (at M06-2X/6-31G(d)+ZPVE) to be 77.9, 57.1, 33.3, −0.3, and −12.1 kcal/mol vs two isolated acene molecules for benzene, naphthalene, anthracene, pentacene, and heptacene, respectively. If activation energy is calculated vs the initially formed complex of two acene molecules, then the calculated barriers are 80.5, 63.2, 43.7, 16.7, and 12.3 kcal/mol. Dimerization is exothermic from anthracene onward, but it is endothermic at the terminal rings, even for heptacene. Phenyl substitution at the most reactive meso-carbon atoms of the central ring of acene blocks the reactivity of this ring but does not efficiently prevent dimerization through other rings.