Defect states at organic-inorganic interfaces: Insight from first principles calculations for pentaerythritol tetranitrate on MgO surface

Roman V. Tsyshevsky, Sergey Rashkeev, Maija M. Kuklja

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

12 Citations (Scopus)


Light-responsive organic-inorganic interfaces offer experimental opportunities that are otherwise difficult to achieve. Since laser light can be manipulated very precisely, it becomes possible to engineer selective, predictive, and highly controlled interface properties. Photochemistry of organic-inorganic energetic interfaces is a rapidly emerging research field in which energy absorption and interface stability mechanisms have yet to be established. To explore the interaction of the laser irradiation with molecular materials, we performed first principle calculations of a prototype organic-inorganic interface between a nitroester (pentaerythritol tetranitrate, PETN, C5H8N4O12) and a magnesium oxide (MgO) surface. We found that the light absorption is defined by the band alignment between interface components and interfacial charge transfer coupled with electronic states in the band gap, generated by oxide surface defects. Hence the choice of an oxide substrate and its morphology makes the optical absorption tunable and governs both the energy accumulation and energy release at the interface. The obtained results offer a possible consistent interpretation of experiments on selective laser initiation of energetic materials, which reported that the presence of metal oxide additives triggered the photoinitiation by excitation energy much lower than the band gap. We suggest that PETN photodecomposition is catalyzed by oxygen vacancies (F0 centers) at the MgO surface. Our conclusions predict ways for a complete separation of thermo- and photo-stimulated interface chemistry of molecular materials, which is imperative for highly controllable fast decomposition and was not attainable before. The methodology described here can be applied to any type of molecular material/wide band gap dielectric interfaces. It provides a solid basis for novel design and targeted improvements of organic-inorganic interfaces with desired properties that promise to enable vastly new concepts of energy storage and conversion, photocatalysis, and molecular electronics.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)19-28
Number of pages10
JournalSurface Science
Publication statusPublished - 2015



  • Charge transfer
  • Excited states
  • Molecular energetic materials
  • Optical absorption
  • Oxygen vacancy
  • Photoconversion

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surfaces and Interfaces
  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Materials Chemistry
  • Surfaces, Coatings and Films

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