A few-layer covalent network of fullerenes

E. Meirzadeh, A. M. Evans, M. Rezaee, M. Milich, C. J. Dionne, T. P. Darlington, S. Tong Bao, A. K. Bartholomew, T. Handa, D. J. Rizzo, R. A. Wiscons, M. Reza, A. Zangiabadi, N. Fardian-Melamed, A. C. Crowther, P. J. Schuck, D. N. Basov, X. Zhu, A. Giri, P. E. Hopkins, P. Kim, M. L. Steigerwald, J. Yang, C. Nuckolls and X. Roy

Nature 613, 71 (2023)
The two natural allotropes of carbon, diamond and graphite, are extended networks of sp3-hybridized and sp2-hybridized atoms, respectively1. By mixing different hybridizations and geometries of carbon, one could conceptually construct countless synthetic allotropes. Here we introduce graphullerene, a two-dimensional crystalline polymer of C60 that bridges the gulf between molecular and extended carbon materials. Its constituent fullerene subunits arrange hexagonally in a covalently interconnected molecular sheet. We report charge-neutral, purely carbon-based macroscopic crystals that are large enough to be mechanically exfoliated to produce molecularly thin flakes with clean interfaces—a critical requirement for the creation of heterostructures and optoelectronic devices2. The synthesis entails growing single crystals of layered polymeric (Mg4C60) by chemical vapour transport and subsequently removing the magnesium with dilute acid. We explore the thermal conductivity of this material and find it to be much higher than that of molecular C60, which is a consequence of the in-plane covalent bonding. Furthermore, imaging few-layer graphullerene flakes using transmission electron microscopy and near-field nano-photoluminescence spectroscopy reveals the existence of moiré-like superlattices3. More broadly, the synthesis of extended carbon structures by polymerization of molecular precursors charts a clear path to the systematic design of materials for the construction of two-dimensional heterostructures with tunable optoelectronic properties.