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Journal Article

Modeling Adsorption and Reactions of Organic Molecules at Metal Surfaces


Liu,  Wei
Theory, Fritz Haber Institute, Max Planck Society;


Tkatchenko,  Alexandre
Theory, Fritz Haber Institute, Max Planck Society;


Scheffler,  Matthias
Theory, Fritz Haber Institute, Max Planck Society;

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Liu, W., Tkatchenko, A., & Scheffler, M. (2014). Modeling Adsorption and Reactions of Organic Molecules at Metal Surfaces. Accounts of Chemical Research, 47(11), 3369-3377. doi:10.1021/ar500118y.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/11858/00-001M-0000-0019-C425-0
The understanding of adsorption and reactions of (large) organic molecules at metal surfaces plays an increasingly important role in modern surface science and technology. Such hybrid inorganic/organic systems (HIOS) are relevant for many applications in catalysis, light-emitting diodes, single-molecule junctions, molecular sensors and switches, and photovoltaics. Obviously, the predictive modeling and understanding of the structure and stability of such hybrid systems is an essential prerequisite for tuning their electronic properties and functions. At present, densityfunctional theory (DFT) is the most promising approach to study the structure, stability, and electronic properties of complex systems, because it can be applied to both molecules and solids comprising thousands of atoms. However, state-ofthe- art approximations to DFT do not provide a consistent and reliable description for HIOS, which is largely due to two issues: (i) the self-interaction of the electrons with themselves arising from the Hartree term of the total energy that is not fully compensated in approximate exchange-correlation functionals, and (ii) the lack of long-range part of the ubiquitous van der Waals (vdW) interactions. The self-interaction errors sometimes lead to incorrect description of charge transfer and electronic level alignment in HIOS, although for molecules adsorbed on metals these effects will often cancel out in total energy differences. Regarding vdW interactions, several promising vdW-inclusive DFT-based methods have been recently demonstrated to yield remarkable accuracy for intermolecular interactions in the gas phase. However, the majority of these approaches neglect the nonlocal collective electron response in the vdW energy tail, an effect that is particularly strong in condensed phases and at interfaces between different materials. Here we show that the recently developed DFT+vdWsurf method that accurately accounts for the collective electronic response effects enables reliable modeling of structure and stability for a broad class of organic molecules adsorbed on metal surfaces. This method was demonstrated to achieve quantitative accuracy for aromatic hydrocarbons (benzene, naphthalene, anthracene, and diindenoperylene), C60, and sulfur/oxygen-containing molecules (thiophene, NTCDA, and PTCDA) on close-packed and stepped metal surfaces, leading to an overall accuracy of 0.1 Å in adsorption heights and 0.1 eV in binding energies with respect to state-of-the-art experiments. An unexpected finding is that vdW interactions contribute more to the binding of strongly bound molecules on transition-metal surfaces than for molecules physisorbed on coinage metals. The accurate inclusion of vdW interactions also significantly improves tilting angles and adsorption heights for all the studied molecules, and can qualitatively change the potential-energy surface for adsorbed molecules with flexible functional groups. Activation barriers for molecular switches and reaction precursors are modified as well.