Theoretical Studies of Furan and Thiophene Nanothreads: Structures, Cycloaddition Barriers, and Activation Volumes

Bo Chen, Vincent H. Crespi, Roald Hoffmann

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5 Scopus citations


This theoretical study examines the formation, structure, and stability of two of the most ordered nanothreads produced yet, those derived from furan and thiophene. The energetic consequences and activation barriers of the first two steps of oligomerization via a Diels-Alder mechanism were examined. The ca. 20 GPa difference in the synthetic pressures (lower for furan) is explainable in terms of the greater loss of aromaticity by the thiophene. The effects of pressure on the reaction profiles, operating through a volume decrease along the reaction coordinate, are illustrated. The interesting option of polymerization proceeding in one or two directions opens up the possibility of polymers with opposing, cumulative dipole moments. The computed activation volumes are consistently more negative for furan, in accordance with the lower onset pressure of furan polymerization. The energetics of three ordered polymer structures were examined. The syn polymer, with all O/S atoms on the same side, if not allowed to distort, is at a high energy relative to the other two due to the O/S lone pair repulsion, understandably greater for S than for O at the 2.8/2.6 Å separation. Set free, the syn isomers curve or arch in two- or three-dimensional (helical) ways, whose energetics are traced in detail. The syn polymer can also stabilize itself by twisting into zig-zag or helical energy minima. The release of strain in a linear thread as the pressure is relaxed to 1 atm, with consequent thread curving, is a likely mechanism for the observed loss of the crystalline order in the polymer as it is returned to ambient pressure.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)9044-9056
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of the American Chemical Society
Issue number20
StatePublished - May 25 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

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


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