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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.


The adsorption of helium on charged hexabenzocoronene (Hbc, C42H18), a planar polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH) molecule of D6h symmetry, is investigated by a combination of high-resolution mass spectrometry and classical and quantum computational methods. The ion abundance of HenHbc+ complexes versus size n features prominent local anomalies at n = 14, 38, 68, 82, and a weak one at 26, indicating that for these “magic” sizes the helium evaporation energies are relatively large. Surprisingly, mass spectra of anionic HenHbc complexes feature a different set of anomalies, namely at n = 14, 26, 60, and 62, suggesting that the preferred arrangement of the adsorbate atoms depends on the charge of the substrate. The results of our quantum calculations show that the adsorbate layer grows by successive filling of concentric rings that surround the central benzene ring which is occupied by one helium atom each on either side of the substrate. The helium atoms are fairly localized in filled rings and they approximately preserve the D6h symmetry of the substrate, but helium atoms in partially filled rings are rather delocalized. The first three rings contain 6 atoms each; they account for magic numbers at n = 14, 26, and 38. The size of the first ring shrinks as atoms are filled into the second ring, and the position of atoms in the second ring changes from hollow sites to bridge sites as atoms are filled into the third ring. Beyond n = 38, however, the arrangement of helium atoms in the first three rings remains essentially frozen. Presumably, another ring is filled at n = 68 for cations and n = 62 for anions. The calculated structures and energies do not account for the difference between charge states, although they agree with the measurements for the cations and show that the first solvation shell of Hbc± is complete at n = 68. Beyond that size the adsorbate layer becomes three-dimensional, and the circular arrangement of helium changes to hexagonal.



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MDPI AG, Basel

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© 2022 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.


This is an Open Access article published by MDPI in Molecules in 2022, available online: