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Issue 8, 2017
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Piezochromism and structural and electronic properties of benz[a]anthracene under pressure

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We report a combined experimental and theoretical study of the high pressure behavior of a herringbone-type hydrocarbon benz[a]anthracene (BaA) using fluorescence spectroscopy, X-ray diffraction, optical absorption, photoconductivity measurements, and first-principles density functional theory (DFT) calculations. The ambient-pressure molecular solid phase of BaA was found to be stable up to ∼15.0 GPa. Increasing the external pressure within this region would induce a reversible piezochromic colour change in the sample, from yellow-green to light brown. The reversibility of the colour change was confirmed by both optical observations and fluorescence measurements. Further compression beyond 15 GPa leads to polymerization of the sample and formation of an amorphous hydrogenated carbon. The low pressure crystalline phase is not recoverable when the sample is decompressed from pressure above 15 GPa. DFT investigation of the structures at zero temperature suggests that the formation of a crystalline polymeric phase can take place between 30 and 117 GPa, however the kinetic barriers hinder the process at low pressure regions. The phase transition is therefore suggested to proceed along a gradual transition path to an amorphous phase at a lower reaction threshold, activated by finite temperature effects. Optical absorption measurements reveal that the band gap of BaA decreases at high pressure, from 2.4 eV at 0.5 GPa to 1.0 eV at 50.6 GPa. The DFT calculations further suggest that the band gap of BaA in the molecular phase could reduce to ∼0.1 eV at 117 GPa. Photoconductivity measurements show a continuous increase of photocurrent in the molecular phase region, which most likely originated from the increase of carrier mobility under pressure.

Graphical abstract: Piezochromism and structural and electronic properties of benz[a]anthracene under pressure

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The article was received on 29 Nov 2016, accepted on 29 Jan 2017 and first published on 31 Jan 2017

Article type: Paper
DOI: 10.1039/C6CP08171A
Citation: Phys. Chem. Chem. Phys., 2017,19, 6216-6223

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    Piezochromism and structural and electronic properties of benz[a]anthracene under pressure

    W. Cai, R. Zhang, Y. Yao and S. Deemyad, Phys. Chem. Chem. Phys., 2017, 19, 6216
    DOI: 10.1039/C6CP08171A

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