Ab initio playing of pentagonal puzzles

Lei Liu, Immanuella Kankam, Houlong L. Zhuang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Imagine that there is a gapless plane tessellated by irregular, convex pentagons with their side lengths at the sub-nanoscale, and tiny balls are placed at the vertices of each pentagon. If there are no interactions among these balls, one would expect that they stand still at the vertices of the pentagons. But what if these balls symbolize atoms? The electrons and nuclei of the atoms will start to interact following the laws of quantum mechanics. As a result, the atoms will relocate leading to a system of energy minimum. While performing an experiment of manipulating individual atoms and observing the resulting configurations may be challenging, we apply ab initio density functional theory (DFT) calculations to carry out a virtual experiment, where we assign carbon atoms at the vertices of 14 types of convex pentagons and then optimize the positions of these atoms. We obtain a variety of unexpected structures; almost all of them except types 2 and 4 structures-these two structures are equivalent-differ from the initial pentagonal geometries. We compute the band structure of each resulting geometry representing the crystal structure of a two-dimensional (2D) material. We find diverse electrical properties among these 2D materials: Metallic, semiconducting, and semimetallic with a Dirac cone. Our work shows that encoding quantum mechanics into the geometries of irregular, convex pentagons and with the help of DFT calculations open up a novel route for accelerating discovery of new 2D materials.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number015004
JournalElectronic Structure
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2019


  • Density functional theory
  • Electronic structure
  • Pentagonal geometries
  • Two-dimensional materials

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering
  • Electronic, Optical and Magnetic Materials
  • Materials Chemistry
  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Electrochemistry


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