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Atomlike, Hollow-Core–Bound Molecular Orbitals of C60

Science  18 Apr 2008:
Vol. 320, Issue 5874, pp. 359-362
DOI: 10.1126/science.1155866

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Abstract

The atomic electron orbitals that underlie molecular bonding originate from the central Coulomb potential of the atomic core. We used scanning tunneling microscopy and density functional theory to explore the relation between the nearly spherical shape and unoccupied electronic structure of buckminsterfullerene (C60) molecules adsorbed on copper surfaces. Besides the known π* antibonding molecular orbitals of the carbon-atom framework, above 3.5 electron volts we found atomlike orbitals bound to the core of the hollow C60 cage. These “superatom” states hybridize like the s and p orbitals of hydrogen and alkali atoms into diatomic molecule-like dimers and free-electron bands of one-dimensional wires and two-dimensional quantum wells in C60 aggregates. We attribute the superatom states to the central potential binding an electron to its screening charge, a property expected for hollow-shell molecules derived from layered materials.

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