Date of Award

Winter 2010

Project Type


Program or Major


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

First Advisor

Howard R Mayne


Since their discovery 25 years ago, carbon fullerenes have been widely studied for their unique physicochemical properties and for applications including organic electronics and photovoltaics. For these applications it is highly desirable for crystalline fullerene thin films to spontaneously self-assemble on surfaces. Accordingly, many studies have functionalized fullerenes with the aim of tailoring their intermolecular interactions and controlling interactions with the solid substrate.

The success of these rational design approaches hinges on the subtle interplay of intermolecular forces and molecule-substrate interactions. Molecular modeling is well-suited to studying these interactions by directly simulating self-assembly. In this work, we consider three different fullerene functionalization approaches and for each approach we carry out Monte Carlo simulations of the self-assembly process. In all cases, we use a "coarse-grained" molecular representation that preserves the dominant physical interactions between molecules and maximizes computational efficiency.

The first approach we consider is the traditional gold-thiolate SAM (self-assembled monolayer) strategy which tethers molecules to a gold substrate via covalent sulfur-gold bonds. For this we study an asymmetric fullerene thiolate bridged by a phenyl group. Clusters of 40 molecules are simulated on the Au(111) substrate at different temperatures and surface coverage densities. Fullerenes and S atoms are found to compete for Au(111) surface sites, and this competition prevents self-assembly of highly ordered monolayers.

Next, we investigate self-assembled monolayers formed by fullerenes with hydrogen-bonding carboxylic acid substituents. We consider five molecules with different dimensions and symmetries. Monte Carlo cooling simulations are used to find the most stable solid structures of clusters adsorbed to Au(111). The results show cases where fullerene-Au(111) attraction, fullerene close-packing, and hydrogen-bonding interactions can cooperate to guide self-assembly or compete to hinder it.

Finally, we consider three bis-fullerene molecules, each with a different "bridging group" covalently joining two fullerenes. To effectively study the competing "standing-up" and "lying-down" morphologies, we use Monte Carlo simulations in conjunction with replica exchange and force field biasing methods. For clusters adsorbed to smooth model surfaces, we determine free energy landscapes and demonstrate their utility for rationalizing and predicting self-assembly.