Phase Transition toward a Thermodynamically Less Stable Phase: Cross- Nucleation due to Thin Film Growth of a Benzothieno-benzothiophene Derivative

S Hofer and A Hofer and J Simbrunner and M Ramsey and M Sterrer and A Sanzone and L Beverina and Y Geerts and R Resel, JOURNAL OF PHYSICAL CHEMISTRY C, 125, 28039-28047 (2021).

DOI: 10.1021/acs.jpcc.1c06610

The molecule 2-decyl-7-phenyl-1benzothieno-3,2-b1benzothiophene is an organic semiconductor, with outstanding properties in terms of molecular packing and its use in organic electronics. The asymmetric shape of the molecule causes a double layer crystal structure at room temperature. In this work we report its thin film growth by physical vapor deposition starting from the monolayer regime up to thick films. The films are studied in terms of their morphology, crystallographic properties, and thermal stability by atomic force microscopy and X-ray diffraction methods. It is found that the bulk molecular packing of the bilayer is formed at the initial thin film growth stage. After a thickness of one double layer, a transition into a new polymorph is observed which is of metastable character. The new phase represents a single layer phase; the crystal structure could be solved by a combination of X-ray diffraction and molecular dynamics simulations. The observed thin film growth is outstanding in terms of surface crystallization: the formation of a metastable phase is not associated with the initial thin film growth, since the first growth stage represents rather the bulk crystal structure of this molecule. Its formation is associated with cross-nucleation of one polymorph by another, which explains why a metastable phase can be formed on top of a thermodynamically more stable phase.

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