Infinitenes as the Most Stable Form of Cycloarenes: The Interplay among π Delocalization, Strain, and π–π Stacking
Ke Du and Yang Wang
The recent successful preparation of infinitene has sparked widespread attention due to its aesthetic appeal and synthetic challenge. Spectroscopic measurements and follow-up computational investigations suggest that infinitene holds fundamental significance and potential applications in chiroptics, optoelectronics, asymmetric synthesis, and supramolecular chemistry. However, unlike other looped polyarenes enriched with sizes and shapes, the infinitene molecule seems, so far, the only known example of this fascinating new form of nanocarbons, whose further exploitation would be considerably limited because of the lack of molecular diversity. Here, we introduce a whole new family of generalized infinitenes with different sizes and topologies. Three types of infinitene structures are rationally designed by joining two units of coronene, kekulene, or their extended analogs. The constructed molecules of varying sizes, each with a large number of possible topoisomers, are systematically studied by DFT calculations. Comprehensive analysis using a simple energy decomposition model uncovers that the stability of infinitenes is governed by the interplay among π delocalization, steric strain, and π–π stacking. While the first two factors are crucial to the stability of smaller infinitenes, the latter is the primary stabilizing interaction for larger infinitenes. Most importantly, we show that larger-sized infinitenes are actually the energetically most favorable form among all known looped polyarenes; their substantial thermodynamic stability surpassing that of circulenes, various carbon nanobelts, and kekulene-like macrocycles renders them promising targets for synthesis. The simulated 1H NMR, UV–vis, and circular dichroism spectra along with optical rotations for the most stable infinitene species may help their identification in future synthetic efforts.