How the Layer Alignment in Two-dimensional Nanoporous Covalent Organic Frameworks Impacts Its Electronic Properties

K. S. Rawat, S. Borgmans, T. Braeckevelt, C.V. Stevens, P. Van der Voort, V. Van Speybroeck
ACS Applied Nano Materials


Two-dimensional nanoporous covalent organic frame-works (2D COFs) have gathered significant interest due to their wide range of applications. Due to the lack of strong covalent interlayer interactions, their layers can be stacked in countless ways, each resulting in unique nanoscale characteristics impacting the structural, chemical, and electronic properties. To characterize and understand the layer stacking in 2D COFs and its effect on the structural and electronic properties, we carried out a detailed density functional theory investigation on four materials, CTF-1, COF-1, COF-5, and Pc-PBBA. This entailed an in-depth evaluation of the potential energy as a function of the interlayer distance and offset, the powder X-ray diffraction (PXRD) pattern, and the electronic properties. From the potential energy surfaces, the typical slipped AA-stacking configuration was confirmed as optimal for each of the 2D COFs, with a slight offset from a perfect alignment of the layers. The statically calculated PXRD patterns based on these optimized stacking configurations showed discrepancies when compared to experimental data. Instead, when properly accounting for dynamic fluctuations by calculating the average diffraction pattern over the course of a molecular dynamics simulation, a better agreement with the experiment is obtained. Different stacking configurations also profoundly affected the electronic band structure of COFs as the interlayer pi-pi interactions are significantly impacted by the layer offset. Evidently, with decreasing layer offsets, the pi-pi interactions increase due to the layer alignment, leading to a decrease in the band gap and an increase in interlayer charge mobility. Our study highlights the need for accurate modeling of the stacking configuration in 2D COFs as a small-scale deviation in the adjacent layer position can significantly affect the structural and electronic properties.