Actinide-doped boron clusters: from borophenes to borospherenes†
Similar to graphene and fullerene, metal-doping has been considered to be an effective approach to the construction of highly stable boron clusters. In this work, a series of actinide metal-doped boron clusters AnB36 (An = Pa, Np, Pu, Am, Cm, Bk, and Cf) have been explored using extensive first-principles calculations. We found that the quasi-planar structure of B36 transforms to an endohedral borospherene An@B36 after actinide metal doping. Actinoborospherenes exhibit C2h symmetry with Pa, Np, and Pu dopants and for Am, Cm, Bk and Cf dopants with larger atomic radii, the symmetry of An@B36 is reduced to Ci. Bonding property analyses such as bond order, molecular orbital (MO) and quantum theory of atoms in molecules (QTAIM) analysis show that the covalency of the An–B bonds in C2h An@B36 (An = Pa, Np, and Pu) is higher than that in Ci An@B36 (An = Am, Cm, Bk, and Cf). These endohedral borospherenes are robust according to thermodynamic and dynamic analyses. As expected, the Ci An@B36 clusters are less stable compared to C2h An@B36, which is consistent with the stronger covalent bonds of the latter. These results indicate that the existence of the actinide–boron bonding is essential for the high stability of the An@B36 clusters, confirming that the fullerene-like boron cages can be stabilized by actinide encapsulation. This work is expected to provide potential routes for the construction of robust borospherenes.