ConspectusThe dielectric response of a material is central to numerous processes spanning the fields of chemistry, materials science, biology, and physics. Despite this broad importance across these disciplines, describing the dielectric environment of a molecular system at the level of first-principles theory and computation remains a great challenge and is of importance to understand the behavior of existing systems as well as to guide the design and synthetic realization of new ones. Furthermore, with recent advances in molecular electronics, nanotechnology, and molecular biology, it has become necessary to predict the dielectric properties of molecular systems that are often difficult or impossible to measure experimentally. In these scenarios, it is would be highly desirable to be able to determine dielectric response through efficient, accurate, and chemically informative calculations.A good example of where theoretical modeling of dielectric response would be valuable is in the development of high-capacitance organic gate dielectrics for unconventional electronics such as those that could be fabricated by high-throughput printing techniques. Gate dielectrics are fundamental components of all transistor-based logic circuitry, and the combination high dielectric constant and nanoscopic thickness (i.e., high capacitance) is essential to achieving high switching speeds and low power consumption. Molecule-based dielectrics offer the promise of cheap, flexible, and mass producible electronics when used in conjunction with unconventional organic or inorganic semiconducting materials to fabricate organic field effect transistors (OFETs). The molecular dielectrics developed to date typically have limited dielectric response, which results in low capacitances, translating into poor performance of the resulting OFETs. Furthermore, the development of better performing dielectric materials has been hindered by the current highly empirical and labor-intensive pace of synthetic progress. An accurate and efficient theoretical computational approach could drastically decrease this time by screening potential dielectric materials and providing reliable design rules for future molecular dielectrics.Until recently, accurate calculation of dielectric responses in molecular materials was difficult and highly approximate. Most previous modeling efforts relied on classical formalisms to relate molecular polarizability to macroscopic dielectric properties. These efforts often vastly overestimated polarizability in the subject materials and ignored crucial material properties that can affect dielectric response. Recent advances in first-principles calculations via density functional theory (DFT) with periodic boundary conditions have allowed accurate computation of dielectric properties in molecular materials.In this Account, we outline the methodology used to calculate dielectric properties of molecular materials. We demonstrate the validity of this approach on model systems, capturing the frequency dependence of the dielectric response and achieving quantitative accuracy compared with experiment. This method is then used as a guide to new high-capacitance molecular dielectrics by determining what materials and chemical properties are important in maximizing dielectric response in self-assembled monolayers (SAMs). It will be seen that this technique is a powerful tool for understanding and designing new molecular dielectric systems, the properties of which are fundamental to many scientific areas.
ASJC Scopus subject areas