Anisotropic lattice softening near the structural phase transition in the thermosalient crystal 1,2,4,5-tetrabromobenzene†
The thermosalient effect (crystal jumping on heating) attracts much attention as both an intriguing academic phenomenon and in relation to its potential for the development of molecular actuators but its mechanism remains unclear. 1,2,4,5-Tetrabromobenzene (TBB) is one of the most extensively studied thermosalient compounds that has been shown previously to undergo a phase transition on heating, accompanied by crystal jumping and cracking. The difference in the crystal structures and intermolecular interaction energies of the low- and high-temperature phases is, however, too small to account for the large stress that arises over the course of the transformation. The energy is released spontaneously, and crystals jump across distances that exceed the crystal size by orders of magnitude. In the present work, the anisotropy of lattice strain is followed across the phase transition by single-crystal X-ray diffraction, focusing on the structural evolution from 273 to 343 K. A pronounced lattice softening is observed close to the transition point, with the structure becoming more rigid immediately after the phase transition. The diffraction studies are further supported by theoretical analysis of pairwise intermolecular energies and zone-centre lattice vibrations. Only three modes are found to monotonically soften up to the phase transition, with complex behaviour exhibited by the remaining lattice modes. The thermosalient effect is delayed with respect to the structural transformation itself. This can originate from the martensitic mechanism of the transformation, and the accumulation of stress associated with vibrational switching across the phase transition. The finding of this study sheds more light on the nature of the thermosalient effect in 1,2,4,5-tetrabromobenzene and can be applicable also to other thermosalient compounds.
- This article is part of the themed collection: 2018 PCCP HOT Articles