Metal-like Ductility in Organic Plastic Crystals: Role of Molecular Shape and Dihydrogen Bonding Interactions in Aminoboranes


Ductility, which is a common phenomenon in most metals and metal-based alloys, is hard to achieve in molecular crystals. Organic crystals have been recently shown to deform plastically, but only on one or two faces, and fracture when stressed in any other arbitrary direction. Here, we report an exceptional metal-like ductility in crystals of two globular molecules, BH3NMe3 and BF3NMe3, with characteristic stretching, necking and thinning with deformations as large as ~ 500%. Surprisingly, the mechanically deformed samples not only retained good long range order, but also allowed structure determination by single crystal X-ray diffraction. Molecules in these high symmetry crystals interact predominantly via electrostatic forces (B–N+) and form columnar structures, thus forming multiple slip planes with weak dispersive forces among columns. While the former interactions hold molecules together, the latter facilitate exceptional malleability. On the other hand, the limited number of facile slip planes and strong dihydrogen bonding in BH3NHMe2 negates ductility. We show the possibility to simultaneously achieve both exceptional ductility and crystallinity in solids of certain globular molecules, which may enable designing highly modular, easy-to-cast crystalline functional organics, for applications in barocalorimetry, ferroelectrics and soft-robotics.


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