Halogen Bonding to Carbon: a Directional Interaction for the Reliable Design of Supramolecular Architectures Based on Non-derivatized Aromatic Carbon Systems

25 April 2023, Version 1
This content is a preprint and has not undergone peer review at the time of posting.


Carbon, although the central element in organic chemistry has been traditionally neglected as a target for directional supramolecular interactions. The design of supramolecular structures involving carbon-rich molecules, such as arenes, has almost exclusively been limited to π-stacking of aromatic systems, or derivatization with heteroatoms as sites for molecular recognition. Here, we demonstrate that C-I···Cπ halogen bonds to carbon-based π-systems can be reliably used as direction-al interactions for the creation of extended structures based on planar, as well as curved aromatic systems, without any need for derivatization or π-stacking. Specifically, we describe the first systematic study of a series of cocrystals containing non-derivatized carbon-only aromatic systems of different sizes and shapes, including polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and fullerene C60, which are held together by directional halogen bonds to aromatic carbon atoms. In a large majority (~90%) of structures, the C-I···Cπ halogen bonding with PAHs leads to a supramolecular ladder-like motif, in which the PAHs act as the rungs and halogen bond donors as rails, demonstrating this motif as the first example of a supramolecular synthon based on carbon. These results, supported by novel cocrystal structures, theoretical calculations, and a systematic analysis of the Cambridge Structural Database, offer a new, previously overlooked paradigm for the assembly of carbon-only aromatic systems, not based on π-stacking, but via specific, directional halogen bonding. This new ability to use a car-bon-based supramolecular synthon to direct the assembly aromatic systems provides an exciting opportunity to create materials with new and modified properties based on non-derivatized aromatic systems, as seen from large red and blue shifts in solid-state luminescence for cocrystals of pyrene, coronene and perylene, as well as the appearance of room-temperature phosphorescence upon cocrystal formation.


Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons
Room-temperature phosphorescence
Crystal engineering

Supplementary materials

Supplementary Information
Additional experimental (crystallographic, spectroscopic, thermal analysis) data with suitable references.


Comments are not moderated before they are posted, but they can be removed by the site moderators if they are found to be in contravention of our Commenting Policy [opens in a new tab] - please read this policy before you post. Comments should be used for scholarly discussion of the content in question. You can find more information about how to use the commenting feature here [opens in a new tab] .
This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy [opens in a new tab] and Terms of Service [opens in a new tab] apply.