Photochemically Mediated Polymerization of Molecular Furan and Pyridine: Synthesis of Nanothreads at Reduced Pressures

Shalisa M. Oburn, Steven Huss, Jordan Cox, Margaret C. Gerthoffer, Sikai Wu, Arani Biswas, Morgan Murphy, Vincent H. Crespi, John V. Badding, Steven A. Lopez, Elizabeth Elacqua

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Nanothreads are emerging one-dimensional sp3-hybridized materials with high predicted tensile strength and a tunable band gap. They can be synthesized by compressing aromatic or nonaromatic small molecules to pressures ranging from 15-30 GPa. Recently, new avenues are being sought that reduce the pressure required to afford nanothreads; the focus has been placed on the polymerization of molecules with reduced aromaticity, favorable stacking, and/or the use of higher reaction temperatures. Herein, we report the photochemically mediated polymerization of pyridine and furan aromatic precursors, which achieves nanothread formation at reduced pressures. In the case of pyridine, it was found that a combination of slow compression/decompression with broadband UV light exposure yielded a crystalline product featuring a six-fold diffraction pattern with similar interplanar spacings to previously synthesized pyridine-derived nanothreads at a reduced pressure. When furan is compressed to 8 GPa and exposed to broadband UV light, a crystalline solid is recovered that similarly demonstrates X-ray diffraction with an interplanar spacing akin to that of the high-pressure synthesized furan-derived nanothreads. Our method realizes a 1.9-fold reduction in the maximum pressure required to afford furan-derived nanothreads and a 1.4-fold reduction in pressure required for pyridine-derived nanothreads. Density functional theory and multiconfigurational wavefunction-based computations were used to understand the photochemical activation of furan and subsequent cascade thermal cycloadditions. The reduction of the onset pressure is caused by an initial [4+4] cycloaddition followed by increasingly facile thermal [4+2]-cycloadditions during polymerization.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)22026-22034
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of the American Chemical Society
Issue number48
StatePublished - Dec 7 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Catalysis
  • General Chemistry
  • Biochemistry
  • Colloid and Surface Chemistry


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