In spite of extensive investigations of ethylene adsorbed on graphite, bundles of nanotubes, and crystals of fullerenes, little is known about the existence of commensurate phases; they have escaped detection in almost all previous work. Here we present a combined experimental and theoretical study of ethylene adsorbed on free C60 and its aggregates. The ion yield of (C60)m(C2H4)n+ measured by mass spectrometry reveals a propensity to form a structurally ordered phase on monomers, dimers and trimers of C60 in which all sterically accessible hollow sites over carbon rings are occupied. Presumably the enhancement of the corrugation by the curvature of the fullerene surface favors this phase which is akin to a hypothetical 1 × 1 phase on graphite. Experimental data also reveal the number of molecules in groove sites of the C60 dimer through tetramer. The identity of the sites, adsorption energies and orientations of the adsorbed molecules are determined by molecular dynamics calculations based on quantum chemical potentials, as well as density functional theory. The decrease in orientational order with increasing temperature is also explored in the simulations whereas in the experiment it is impossible to vary the temperature.

This paper was originally published in Carbon DOI: 10.1016/j.carbon.2013.12.017.