Insight into Organometallic Intermediate and Its Evolution to Covalent Bonding in Surface-Confined Ullmann Polymerization

We provide insight into surface-catalyzed dehalogenative polymerization, analyzing the organometallic intermediate and its evolution into planar polymeric structures. A combined study using scanning tunneling microscopy (STM), X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS), low energy electron diffraction (LEED), near-edge X-ray absorption fine structure (NEXAFS) spectroscopy and first-principles calculations unveils the structural conformation of substrate-bound phenylene intermediates generated from 1,4-dibromobenzene precursors on Cu(110), showing the stabilizing role of the halogen. The appearance of covalently bonded conjugated structures is followed in real time by fast-XPS measurements (with an acquisition time of 2 s per spectrum and heating rate of 2 K/s), showing that the detaching of phenylene units from the copper substrate and subsequent polymerization occur upon annealing above 460 ± 10 K.