Organic Chemistry

MicroED Elucidation of Diverse Solid-State Packing in a Family of Electron-Deficient Expanded Helicenes


Solid-state packing plays a defining role in the properties of a molecular organic material, but it is difficult to elucidate in the absence of single crystals that are suitable for X-ray diffraction. Here, we demonstrate the coupling of divergent synthesis with microcrystal electron diffraction (MicroED) for rapid assessment of solid-state packing motifs, using a class of chiral nanocarbons – expanded helicenes – as a proof of concept. Two highly selective oxidative dearomatizations of a readily-accessible helicene provided a divergent route to four electron-deficient analogues containing quinone or quinoxaline units. Crystallization efforts consistently yielded microcrystals that were unsuitable for single crystal X-ray diffraction, but ideal for MicroED. This technique facilitated the elucidation of solid-state structures of all five compounds with <1.1 Å resolution. The otherwise-inaccessible data revealed a range of notable packing behavior, including four different space groups, homochirality in a crystal for a helicene with an extremely low enantiomerization barrier, and nanometer scale cavities. The results of this study suggest that MicroED will soon become an indispensable tool for high-throughput investigations in pursuit of next-generation organic materials.

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