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A Molecular Dynamics Study of Carbon Dimerization on Cu(111) Surface with Optimized DFTB Parameters
Acta Physico-Chimica Sinica 34(10):1116-1123 2018

Yin Di; Qiu Zongyang; Li Pai; Li Zhenyu

Cu has been widely used as a substrate material for graphene growth. To understand the atomistic mechanism of growth, an efficient and accurate method for describing Cu-C interactions is necessary, which is the prerequisite of any possible large-scale molecular simulation studies. The semi-empirical density-functional tight-binding (DFTB) method has a solid basis from the density functional theory (DFT) and is believed to be a good tool for achieving a balance between efficiency and accuracy. However, existing DFTB parameters cannot provide a reasonable description of the Cu surface structure. At the same time, DFTB parameters for Cu-C interactions are not available. Therefore, it is highly desirable to develop a set of DFTB parameters that can describe the Cu-C system, especially for surface reactions. In this study, a parametrization for Cu-C systems within the self-consistent-charge DFTB (SCC-DFTB) framework is performed. One-center parameters, including on-site energy, Hubbard, and spin parameters, are obtained from DFT calculations on free atoms. Two-center parameters can be calculated based on atomic wavefunctions. The remaining repulsive potential is obtained as the best compromise to describe different kinds of systems. Test calculations on Cu surfaces and Cu-or C atom-adsorbed Cu surfaces indicate that the obtained parameters can generate reasonable geometric structures and energetics. Based on this parameter set, carbon dimerization on the Cu(111) surface has been investigated via molecular dynamics simulations. Since they are the feeding species for graphene growth, it is important to understand how carbon dimers are formed on the Cu surface. It is difficult to observe carbon dimerization in brute-force MD simulations even at high temperatures, because of the surface structure distortion. To study the dimerization mechanism, metadynamics simulations are performed. Our simulations suggest that carbon atoms will rotate around the bridging Cu atom after a bridging metal structure is formed, which eventually leads to the dimer formation. The free energy barrier for dimerization at 1300 K is about 0.9 eV. The results presented here provide useful insights for understanding graphene growth.

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