Insertion of alkali atoms into graphite enhanced by cointercalation with alkylamine: mechanism from density functional theory

Research paper by Gum-Chol Ri, Chol-Jun Yu, Jin-Song Kim, Song-Nam Hong, Un-Gi Jong, Mun-Hyok Ri

Indexed on: 25 Dec '15Published on: 25 Dec '15Published in: Physics - Materials Science


Using density functional theory calculations, we have investigated the structural, energetic, and electronic properties of ternary graphite intercalation compounds (GICs) containing alkali atoms (AM) and normal alkylamine molecules (nC$x$), denoted as AM-nC$x$-GICs (AM=Li, Na, K, $x$=1, 2, 3, 4). The orthorhombic unit cells have been used to build the models for crystalline stage-I AM-nC$x$-GICs. By performing the variable cell relaxations and the analysis of results, we have found that with the increase in the atomic number of alkali atoms the layer separations decreases in contrast to AM-GICs, while the bond lengths of alkali atoms with graphene layer and nitrogen atom of alkylamine decreases. The formation and interlayer binding energies of AM-nC3-GICs have been calculated, indicating the increase in stability from Li to K. The calculated energy barriers for migration of alkali atoms suggest that alkali cation with larger ionic radius diffuses in graphite more smoothly, being similar to AM-GICs. The analysis of density of states, electronic density differences, and atomic populations illustrates a mechanism how the insertion of especially Na among alkali atoms into graphite with first stage can be made easy by cointercalation with alkylamine, more extent of electronic charge transfer is occurred from more electropositive alkali atom to carbon ring of graphene layer, while alkylamine molecules interact strongly with graphene layer through the hybridization of valence electron orbitals.