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Improving the Stability of Organic Semiconductors: Distortion Energy versus Aromaticity in Substituted Bistetracene


Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) have been widely explored as molecular semiconductors in organic electronic devices such as field-effect transistors or solar cells. However, their tendency to undergo photooxidation is a primary limitation to their practical applications. Bistetracene derivatives have recently been demonstrated to possess much larger photooxidation stability than the widely investigated pentacene and rubrene, while maintaining high charge-carrier mobilities. Here, using several levels of density functional theory, we identify the origin of the increased stability of bistetracene with respect to molecular oxygen by systematically investigating the [4 + 2] cycloaddition (Diels–Alder) photooxidation reaction mechanism. Importantly, our computational results indicate that endoperoxide formation in bis(2-(trimethylsilyl)ethynyl) bistetracene (BT) occurs not on the ring with least aromaticity, but rather on the ring with smallest distortion energy. This feature was subsequently confirmed by experimental NMR analyses. The oxidation activation barriers of bistetracene, pentacene, and rubrene are found to be 17.7, 13.6, and 14.4 kcal/mol, respectively, in agreement with the observed order of stability of these molecules with respect to oxidation reactions in solution. In the cases of BT and pentacene, the rates of electron transfer to create charged species (PAH+ and O2–) are at least two orders of magnitude lower than that of the charge recombination process (back to PAH and O2); for rubrene, both of these processes are calculated to be of the same order of magnitude, in agreement with experimental electron paramagnetic resonance spectroscopy observations.