The superatom states of fullerenes and their hybridization into the nearly free electron bands of fullerites

ACS Nano. 2009 Apr 28;3(4):853-64. doi: 10.1021/nn800834k.


Motivated by the discovery of the superatom states of C60 molecules, we investigate the factors that influence their energy and wave function hybridization into nearly free electron bands in molecular solids. As the n = 3 solutions of the radial Schrodinger equation of the central attractive potential consisting of the short-range C atom core and the long-range collective screening potentials, respectively, located on the icosahedral C60 molecule shell and within its hollow core, superatom states are distinguished by their atom-like orbitals corresponding to different orbital angular momentum states (l = 0, 1, 2,...). Because they are less tightly bound than the pi orbitals, that is, the n = 2 states, which are often exploited in the intermolecular electron transport in aromatic organic molecule semiconductors, superatom orbitals hybridize more extensively among aggregated molecules to form bands with nearly free electron dispersion. The prospect of exploiting the strong intermolecular coupling to achieve metal-like conduction in applications such as molecular electronics may be attained by lowering the energy of superatom states from 3.5 eV for single chemisorbed C60 molecules to below the Fermi level; therefore, we study how the superatom state energies depend on factors such as their aggregation into 1D-3D solids, cage size, and exo- and endohedral doping by metal atoms. We find, indeed, that if the ionization potential of endohedral atom, such as copper, is sufficiently large, superatom states can form the conduction band in the middle of the gap between the HOMO and LUMO of the parent C60 molecule. Through a plane-wave density functional theory study, we provide insights for a new paradigm for intermolecular electronic interaction beyond the conventional one among the sp(n) hybridized orbitals of the organic molecular solids that could lead to design of novel molecular materials and quantum structures with extraordinary optical and electronic properties.