Functional chemistry impacts interfacial heat transport from fullerene derivatives to liquids: Paper published in ACS Nano – Congrats Chet!

Chet Szwejkowski’s work on the thermal boundary conductance across fullerene derivative/liquid interfaces has recently appeared in ACS Nano.

Szwejkowski, C.J., Giri, A., Kaehr, B., Warzoha, R.J., Donovan, B.F., Hopkins, P.E., “Molecular tuning of the vibrational thermal transport mechanisms in fullerene derivative solutions,” ACS Nano 11, 1389-1396 (2017).

In this work, we showed that the functional group on fullerene derivatives can be used to control the thermal boundary conductance across the molecule/liquid interfaces.  Based on the geometry of the functional group, the density of states of low frequency modes will change and impact the transmission of thermal energy across the molecule/liquid interface.  We demonstrated this by measuring the thermal boundary conductance across these interfaces in samples of dilute fullerene derivative suspensions.  The measurements were conducted using time domain thermotransmission.  Our experimental results are supported with molecular dynamic simulations.


Control over the thermal conductance from excited molecules into an external environment is essential for the development of customized photothermal therapies and chemical processes. This control could be achieved through molecule tuning of the chemical moieties in fullerene derivatives. For example, the thermal transport properties in the fullerene derivatives indene-C60 monoadduct (ICMA), indene-C60 bisadduct (ICBA), [6,6]-phenyl C61 butyric acid methyl ester (PCBM), [6,6]-phenyl C61 butyric acid butyl ester (PCBB), and [6,6]-phenyl C61 butyric acid octyl ester (PCBO) could be tuned by choosing a functional group such that its intrinsic vibrational density of states bridge that of the parent molecule and a liquid. However, this effect has never been experimentally realized for molecular interfaces in liquid suspensions. Using the pump−probe technique time domain thermotransmittance, we measure the vibrational relaxation times of photoexcited fullerene derivatives in solutions and calculate an effective thermal boundary conductance from the opto-thermally excited molecule into the liquid. We relate the thermal boundary conductance to the vibrational modes of the functional groups using density of states calculations from molecular dynamics. Our findings indicate that the attachment of an ester group to a C60 molecule, such as in PCBM, PCBB, and PCBO, provides low-frequency modes which facilitate thermal coupling with the liquid. This offers a channel for heat flow in addition to direct coupling between the buckyball and the liquid. In contrast, the attachment of indene rings to C60 does not supply the same low-frequency modes and, thus, does not generate the same enhancement in thermal boundary conductance. Understanding how chemical functionalization of C60 affects the vibrational thermal transport in molecule/liquid systems allows the thermal boundary conductance to be manipulated and adapted for medical and chemical applications.

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