Archive for the ‘Hot Articles’ Category

Suppor(tin)g iron for catalytic ammonia formation

Dinitrogen fixation, i.e. converting abundant yet inert nitrogen gas into useable forms, has tantalised chemists for decades. One goal is the transformation of dinitrogen (N2) to ammonia using transition-metal catalysts under acidic and reducing conditions. Just a handful of complexes have been reported so far that can catalyse ammonia formation, and only a few of these are iron based, despite the prevalence of iron in the enzymes that can perform this process biologically. Researchers in the US have now discovered a new iron-based bimetallic system that can catalytically transform N2 to ammonia, providing additional studies that help understand this mechanism (Figure 1).

Iron complexes that catalyse ammonia formation from dinitrogen

Figure 1: Existing iron systems that can transform N2 to ammonia, and the tin-iron system in this study (bottom right)

The bimetallic system reported by the researchers is a tin-supported iron complex, analogous to other bimetallics previously studied in the group. Dinitrogen complexes were targeted since N2 coordination to a metal centre activates it towards further reactivity. The researchers prepared two tin-iron dinitrogen complexes, by either one or two electron reductions of a metal-bromide precursor (LSnFeBr) under a nitrogen atmosphere, to form the neutral LSnFe(N2) (1) or the anionic [LSnFe(N2)] (2), respectively. These complexes were characterised using a range of spectroscopic, electronic and structural techniques, which confirmed both coordination of N2 as well as a direct tin-iron interaction (Figure 2).

Characterisation of tin-iron dinitrogen complexes

Figure 2. A) X-ray crystal structures of tin-iron dinitrogen complexes 1 and 2. B) Characterisation of the N2 functionalisation product 3 with the crystal structure (left) and NMR spectra (right).

The further-reduced anionic species, 2, showed a greater extent of dinitrogen activation compared to the neutral species (1). This was determined by a lower infrared N-N stretching frequency and a longer N-N bond in the solid-state structure of 2, both of which indicate a weaker and more activated N-N bond. The researchers therefore selected 2 for further functionalisation reactivity, and found that the reaction with Me3SiCl (an electrophile) resulted in successful N2 functionalisation, forming the diazenido complex LSnFeN2SiMe3 (3). The diazenido complex was also characterised using a range of techniques (Figure 2b), with the solid-state structure clearly showing the silyl electrophile adding to the N2 ligand. Isolated diazenido complexes, like 3, are extremely rare in the literature, and the researchers attribute this apparent stability of 3 to the presence of the supporting tin centre within the bimetallic system. The importance of the tin-support in this system was further demonstrated by computational analyses of complexes 13, whereby the charge of the distal (and reactive) nitrogen correlated with the charge on the tin centre.

Scheme and table showing catalytic ammonia formation using tin iron complexes and other iron systems

Figure 3: Catalytic ammonia formation from N2 using the tin-iron complexes, with comparison to previously reported iron systems.

The researchers tested all three tin-iron complexes for catalytic ammonia formation, using [Ph2NH2]OTf as an acid and CoCp2* as a reducing agent (Figure 3). Both the neutral dinitrogen complex (1) and the diazenido complex (3) proved successful, with generating up to 5.9 turnovers of ammonia. Additionally, the comparable activity of 3 lends further support to the likely presence of a diazenido intermediate in the mechanism. A comparison with existing iron systems shows that the presence of an iron-support greatly enhances the catalysis compared to unsupported iron (see entry 8, Figure 3), indicating the significance of this metal-support and paving the way towards future catalyst design.

 

To find out more, please read:

Bimetallic iron–tin catalyst for N2 to NH3 and a silyldiazenido model intermediate

Michael J. Dorantes, James T. Moore, Eckhard Bill, Bernd Mienert and Connie C. Lu

Chem. Commun., 2020, 56, 11030-11033

 

Samantha Apps acknowledges Michael Dorantes, for proofreading this post, as well as Prof. Connie Lu and the Lu Lab as her colleagues over the last year.

 

About the blogger:

Dr. Samantha Apps just finished her post as a Postdoctoral Research Associate in the Lu Lab at the University of Minnesota, USA, and obtained her PhD in 2019 from Imperial College London, UK. She has spent the last few years, both in her PhD and postdoc, researching synthetic nitrogen fixation and transition metal complexes that can activate and functionalise dinitrogen. Outside of the lab, you’ll likely find her baking at home, where her years of synthetic lab training has sparked a passion in kitchen chemistry too.

Digg This
Reddit This
Stumble Now!
Share on Facebook
Bookmark this on Delicious
Share on LinkedIn
Bookmark this on Technorati
Post on Twitter
Google Buzz (aka. Google Reader)

Capturing toxic gases with a recyclable porous material

Toxic gas removal is essential for preserving the safety of the public and the environment. Examples include gases such as ammonia (NH3) or carbon monoxide (CO) that can be lethal in just parts-per-million concentrations. Typically, removal of these gases is achieved using porous materials with high surface areas such as zeolites, and more recently covalent- or metal-organic frameworks (COFs or MOFs), which soak up the gases by adsorption to sites within the pores of the structure. Ideally such structures would also be recyclable, whereby the gas can be captured and then safely released without damage to the molecular framework of the material. A collaborative effort by researchers across the world has now demonstrated a recyclable strategy for ammonia adsorption by a MOF, using frustrated Lewis pair chemistry to achieve at least 5 cycles of gas capture and release.

SION105-Eu MOF structure

Figure 1. Left: the structure of SION105-Eu, showing its porous nature; right: the chemical structure of the anionic tctb linker ligand (tctb3-)

The researchers selected SION105-Eu as a highly stable MOF, which uses the triply anionic tctb linker that contains a sterically hindered Lewis acidic boron centre (Figure 1). Normally, ammonia (a Lewis base) will interact with a Lewis acidic boron centre to form a Lewis acid-base adduct. However, the steric demands around the Lewis-acidic boron in the tctb linker ligand prevent the formation of a true adduct with ammonia, instead forming a “frustrated Lewis pair” where the ammonia-boron interaction is considered reversible. This notion therefore allows for ammonia capture by adsorption in the MOF through interaction with the boron centre of the ligand, followed by subsequent ammonia release, since a permanent ammonia-boron interaction is prevented by the steric demands of the linker. Additionally, prevention of permanent adsorption of ammonia within the pores of the MOF prevents any possible collapse of the structure/decomposition, which further enhances the recyclability of the material.

The researchers measured the adsorption of ammonia by SION105-Eu by suspending the MOF in an aqueous solution of NH3 at ambient pressures (i.e. with a loose cap on the vial) or high pressures (with a closed vial cap). They observed up to 10 wt% adsorption in the ambient pressure system, and up to 36 wt% adsorption in the closed system (Figure 2, top). The researchers noted retention of the MOF crystallinity upon ammonia adsorption by powder X-ray diffraction measurements (PXRD), where the same pattern was observed before and after (Figure 2, bottom). The PXRD patterns in Figure 2 (bottom) also confirmed the weak, “frustrated Lewis pair” type interactions between the MOF and NH3, by the appearance of only two new peaks as shown in the squared regions of Figure 2 (bottom).

NH3 adsorption by SION105-Eu MOF

Figure 2. Top: Gravimetrically determined ammonia adsorption over time; bottom: powder XRD patterns before (blue) and after (red) ammonia adsorption

 

The recyclability of the MOF was tested by first allowing ammonia adsorption by suspension of the MOF in an ammonia solution for 6 hours, followed by ammonia release through heating the saturated MOF at 75 °C for 30 minutes. The researchers demonstrated this process could be achieved 5 times without change to the ammonia adsorption capacity or structure of the MOF. Overall, this study shows a new frustrated Lewis pair strategy for gas capture and release to render a MOF material recyclable, which has the potential to be applied beyond ammonia removal to other toxic gases.

 

To find out more, please read:

A recyclable metal–organic framework for ammonia vapour adsorption

Tu N. Nguyen, Ian M. Harreschou, Jung-Hoon Lee, Kyriakos C. Stylianou and Douglas W. Stephan

Chem. Commun., 2020, 56, 9600-9603

 

About the blogger:

Dr. Samantha Apps is a Postdoctoral Research Associate in the Lu Lab at the University of Minnesota, USA, and obtained her PhD in 2019 from Imperial College London, UK. She has spent the last few years, both in her PhD and postdoc, researching synthetic nitrogen fixation and transition metal complexes that can activate and functionalise dinitrogen. Outside of the lab, you’ll likely find her baking at home, where her years of synthetic lab training has sparked a passion in kitchen chemistry too.

Digg This
Reddit This
Stumble Now!
Share on Facebook
Bookmark this on Delicious
Share on LinkedIn
Bookmark this on Technorati
Post on Twitter
Google Buzz (aka. Google Reader)

Controlling chirality at an osmium centre

Chirality is the concept of non-superimposable mirror images. A simple example of chiral objects are our hands, and in chemistry, molecules are chiral if they have a stereogenic (or asymmetric) centre. Like our hands when it comes to writing or dextrous tasks, chiral compounds are ubiquitous in chemistry, where often only one enantiomer (a chiral isomer) is selective for binding or reactivity. Chiral transition-metal complexes are also desirable for asymmetric catalysis, where the majority of systems have chiral ligands to impart chirality in the complex. The alternative ‘chiral-at-metal’ approach imparts chirality at the metal centre by the selective arrangement of asymmetric, achiral ligands, allowing the metal centre to act as both the stereogenic centre and the reactive centre for catalysis.

Chiral-at-metal complexes

Figure 1: General structure for chiral-at-metal complexes using chelating, achiral ligands (above), and the specific structures of the enantiomers for the new osmium system Os1 (below)

Researchers in Germany have adopted this chiral-at-metal approach for asymmetric catalysis, previously reporting Ir(III), Rh(III), Ru(II) and Fe(II) systems, and have now translated this to the first example of a chiral-at-osmium complex (Figure 1). A new octahedral osmium(II) complex was synthesised (Os1), with two bidentate phenanthrolinium ligands (plus carbonyl and bound acetonitrile ligands) that are coordinated in a non-C2-symmetric fashion to create the stereogenic osmium metal centre. Complex Os1 was initially synthesised as a racemic mixture (rac-Os1), in which the researchers were able to resolve to the individual enantiomers using a chiral auxiliary ligand. This method involved replacing the labile acetonitrile ligand with a chiral auxiliary ligand, (S)-2, to form a mixture of diastereomers Δ-(S)-Os2 and Λ-(S)-Os2, which were separable by solubility. Δ-(S)-Os2 precipitated out of the reaction solution, and was isolated and purified by filtration and washing in a >99:1 diastereomeric ratio (d.r.), and the Λ-(S)-Os2 that remained in solution was purified by column chromatography in a >99:1 d.r. The separated diastereomers were then treated with acid in an acetonitrile solution to replace the chiral auxiliary ligand back to the bound acetonitrile, to give the separated enantiomers Δ-Os1 and Λ-Os1, with >99:1 enantiomeric ratios (Scheme 1).

Synthesis of chiral-at-osmium complex

Scheme 1: Synthesis of Os1, starting with formation of the racemic mixture, followed by enantiomeric resolution using a chiral auxiliary ligand (S)-2

The researchers then tested the catalytic activity of the separated enantiomers of Os1 with respect to intramolecular C(sp3)–H aminations that proceed via transition metal nitrenoid intermediates. Δ-Os1 showed catalytic activity for the amination of various nitrene precursor reagents, such as the conversion of sulfonylazides (3) to cyclic sulfonylamides (4) and azidoformates (5) to 2-oxazolidinones (6), tolerating various substrate functional groups (a-c) (Scheme 2). Significantly, the chiral osmium catalyst gave high catalytic yields and enantiomeric purities, particularly in comparison to the previously reported ruthenium analogue (see Scheme 2 for comparative ratios).

Catalysis using chiral-at-osmium complex

Scheme 2: Catalytic C(sp3)-H aminations using Δ-Os1, with comparisons in activity and enantiomeric purity to the previous ruthenium analogue

Overall, this new chiral-at-osmium complex has shown superior catalytic activity with greater enantiomeric selectivity for intramolecular C(sp3)–H aminations, additionally providing the first examples of catalytic enantioselective ring-closing C-H amination of 2-oxazolidinones. This catalytic activity can be attributed to the labile acetonitrile ligand of Os1, which also proved beneficial for allowing enantiomeric resolution of the initial racemic mixture by substitution with a chiral auxiliary ligand.

 

To find out more, please read:

Asymmetric Catalysis with Chiral-at-Osmium Complex

Guanghui Wang, Zijun Zhou, Xiang Shen, Sergei Ivlev and Eric Meggers*

Chem. Commun., 2020, 56, 7714-7717

 

About the blogger:

Dr. Samantha Apps is a Postdoctoral Research Associate in the Lu Lab at the University of Minnesota, USA, and obtained her PhD in 2019 from Imperial College London, UK. She has spent the last few years, both in her PhD and postdoc, researching synthetic nitrogen fixation and transition metal complexes that can activate and functionalise dinitrogen. Outside of the lab, you’ll likely find her baking at home, where her years of synthetic lab training has sparked a passion in kitchen chemistry too.

Digg This
Reddit This
Stumble Now!
Share on Facebook
Bookmark this on Delicious
Share on LinkedIn
Bookmark this on Technorati
Post on Twitter
Google Buzz (aka. Google Reader)

Bacteria vs. bacteria: studying small molecules for microbial competition

Antibiotic resistant bacteria, and the subsequent diseases caused by their infection, are of serious global concern. As more and more bacteria develop antibiotic resistance and jeopardise the current treatments for serious infections, there is a strong imperative to both develop new medicines and to understand these bacterial pathogens. Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Staphylococcus aureus and species from the genus Burkholderia are all such antibiotic resistant bacteria that contribute to various human diseases, and they can pose a serious threat to cystic fibrosis patients through chronic lung infections. These are often polymicrobial infections, meaning that the different bacteria interact by association and can alter the impact of the resulting disease.

P. aeruginosa and Burkholderia generally interact competitively with S. aureus, reducing its viability. This is achieved by the secretion of small molecule respiratory toxins which include 2-alkyl-4(1H)-quinolone N-oxides (AQNOs) by P. aeruginosa or 3-methyl-2-alkyl-4-quinolone N-oxides (MAQNOs) by Burkholderia (see Figure 1). Researchers in Germany and Austria sought to understand the antagonistic interactions of these bacteria and have now reported the synthesis of various representative AQNOs and MAQNOs and investigated their action against S. aureus.

Quinolone derivatives secreted by bacteria

Figure 1: Structures of the quinolone derivatives produced by P. aeruginosa and Burkholderia that act against S. aureus

The researchers approached the synthesis of the AQNOs and MAQNOs by starting with the preparation of the corresponding quinolones, and then converting them to the quinolone N-oxides. They focussed on the C9 nonyl-/nonenyl- derivatives, NQNOs and MNQNOs, as previous studies showed this alkyl chain length proved the most active against S. aureus. Mass spectrometry and fragmentation was primarily used to characterise the synthesised compounds, and the researchers were able to establish a new library of standards to be used for the identification of quinolones and quinolone N-oxides. This therefore allowed the researchers to quantify the specific quinolone derivatives produced by certain strains of P. aeruginosa and Burkholderia using this standard library, as shown in Figure 2.

Quinolone standard library

Figure 2: Quantification of the quinolones (AQs and MAQs) and quinolone N-oxides (AQNOs and MAQNOs) secreted by P. aeruginosa (strains PAO1 and PA14) and Burkholderia thailandesis using calibration against the established standard library

 

The researchers then investigated the possible activity of these quinolone derivatives against S. aureus. The activity of S. aureus was measured using a chromogenic assay, by varying concentrations of the quinolone derivatives until a minimum inhibitory concentration (MIC) was reached, with complete respiratory inhibition of the bacteria. The C9-quinolones (before N-oxidation) showed no inhibition against S. aureus at the highest concentrations tested, but the corresponding quinolone N-oxides (NQNOs and MNQNOs) showed activity against the bacteria. More specifically, unsaturated derivatives were more active, and the MNQNOs, with 3-methylation of the quinolone core, showed the greatest antibiotic activity against S. aureus. These results suggest that the methylated quinolones produced by species of Burkholderia, as well as unsaturared quinolones produced by P. aeruginosa, have an important role in competitive interactions against S. aureus in polymicrobial infections.

 

To find out more, please read:

Profiling structural diversity and activity of 2-alkyl-4(1H)-quinolone N-oxides of Pseudomonas and Burkholderia

Dávid Szamosvári, Michaela Prothiwa, Cora Lisbeth Dieterich and Thomas Böttcher

Chem. Commun., 2020, 56, 6328-6331

 

About the blogger:

Dr. Samantha Apps is a Postdoctoral Research Associate in the Lu Lab at the University of Minnesota, USA, and obtained her PhD in 2019 from Imperial College London, UK. She has spent the last few years, both in her PhD and postdoc, researching synthetic nitrogen fixation and transition metal complexes that can activate and functionalise dinitrogen. Outside of the lab, you’ll likely find her baking at home, where her years of synthetic lab training has sparked a passion in kitchen chemistry too.

 

 

Digg This
Reddit This
Stumble Now!
Share on Facebook
Bookmark this on Delicious
Share on LinkedIn
Bookmark this on Technorati
Post on Twitter
Google Buzz (aka. Google Reader)

Studying Anticancer Agents with XFM

It turns out that rhenium-based compounds have been showing some promising anticancer activity as they’re stable, allow for real time imaging, structurally diverse, and have low off-site toxicity. The most commonly studied complexes are based around a Re(I) tricarbonyl core with the other three binding sites occupied by ligands of varying complexity. Researchers in the US and Australia developed a tricarbonyl Re isonitrile polypyridyl complex fac-[Re(CO)3(dmphen)(para-tolyl-isonitrile)]+, where dmphen = 2,9-dimethyl-1,10-phenanthro-line, called TRIP for short. TRIP showed promising cytotoxicity and can be imaged using confocal fluorescence microscopy, taking advantage of the emissive metal to ligand charge transfer (MLCT) state. The persistence of the emission indicates that the ligands remain bound to the Re even within cells. The complex’s cytotoxicity stems from its inducement of cells to accumulate misfolded proteins, resulting in apoptosis from the unfolded protein response (UPR). UPR induced cell death is relatively uncommon and led the researchers to find a method to characterize the speciation of TRIP in vitro. They used synchrotron X-ray fluorescence microscopy (XFM) to probe the cellular uptake and distribution of TRIP and an iodo-derivative I-TRIP by looking at elemental signals.

Figure 1. Chemical structures of TRIP and I-TRIP

I-TRIP is particularly well-suited to this type of study, as the iodine provides an additional spectroscopic handle on the isonitrile ligand absent in TRIP. Of course, the researchers had to confirm that I-TRIP possessed similar cytotoxicity and working mechanism to TRIP. Various assays and biological studies showed evidence of comparable cytotoxicity and mechanism, demonstrating that altering the substitution of the isonitrile ligand doesn’t significantly impact the bioactivity of the complex. With that settled, the experiments could move to the synchrotron to probe elemental distributions.

Figure 2. XFM elemental distribution maps of HeLa cervical cancer cells treated with either DMSO (control), TRIP, or I-TRIP.

Cells treated with both TRIP and I-TRIP show a clear Re signal, confirming that they can enter and persist in cells. Critically, the colocalization of the Re and I maps for I-TRIP samples indicate that the isonitrile ligand remains bound as a part of the Re complex inside the cells. This strongly suggests that the Re complex is intact while it induces cell death, adding to the developing mechanistic understanding of their activity. This work shows the utility of XRM as a technique to study the distribution of organometallic complexes in living cells. Additionally, the tunability and stable bioactivity of the Re complexes shows that they’re amenable to study by a wide range of techniques that will allow for further mechanistic probing.

To find out more, please read:

X-Ray fluorescence microscopy reveals that rhenium(I) tricarbonyl isonitrile complexes remain intact in vitro

Chilaluck C. Konkankit, James Lovett, Hugh H. Harris and Justin J. Wilson

Chem. Commun., 2020, 56, 6515-6518

About the blogger:

Dr. Beth Mundy is a recent PhD in chemistry from the Cossairt lab at the University of Washington in Seattle, Washington. Her research focused on developing new and better ways to synthesize nanomaterials for energy applications. She is often spotted knitting in seminars or with her nose in a good book. You can find her on Twitter at @BethMundySci.

Digg This
Reddit This
Stumble Now!
Share on Facebook
Bookmark this on Delicious
Share on LinkedIn
Bookmark this on Technorati
Post on Twitter
Google Buzz (aka. Google Reader)

A precious pairing

Understanding metal-metal interactions is of fundamental interest to chemists, especially in the design of new materials or catalysts. Heterometallic metal-metal bonding is particularly fascinating, since the unique properties of each metal can be combined or even manipulated, to enhance structural, electronic or even photochemical effects. Gold and platinum are one such pairing of interest and there have already been several applications of AuPt clusters reported for catalysis. However, well-defined, homogeneous AuPt complexes are comparatively under explored, but there is a huge potential for these heterodinuclear complexes to catalyse useful chemical transformations. Research in Germany by Butschke and co-workers now describes the first example of an AuPt complex with a bound olefin, as a valuable, formal Au+IPt0 precursor for further reactivity and chemical transformations (Figure 1).

Figure 1: The new AuPt heterodinuclear complex with Pt-bound olefins (right), and existing examples in the literature with Pt-bound phosphines (left and centre).

The new cationic AuPt complex described in this report differs from the existing literature by the presence of weakly bound olefin ligands (in this case, norbonene/nbe) coordinated to the platinum. The other existing examples have only strongly σ-donating phosphine ligands coordinated to the Pt centre, which increases the overall stability of the complexes and renders them unreactive for further chemistry. In contrast, the nbe ligands are more weakly bound, and have a much lower dissociation energy, creating a more reactive complex which is therefore a valuable precursor to other formal Au+IPt0 complexes. This increased reactivity is reflected in the preparation and subsequent manipulations of the complex, which had to be conducted at low temperatures to prevent decomposition.

Figure 2: The X-ray crystal structure of the new AuPt complex.

The new AuPt heterodinuclear complex prepared in this report was characterised by a range of spectroscopic and structural techniques. Single-crystal X-ray diffraction confirmed the molecular structure of the complex, as shown in Figure 2. A rearrangement of the three axial nbe ligands was observed in the new AuPt complex compared to the [Pt(nbe)3] platinum precursor; the three olefin ligands are arranged in a spoke-wheel geometry with the bridging methylenes of nbe all pointing in the same direction away from the gold (an ‘up-up-up’ configuration, in comparison to an ‘up-up-down’ arrangement as in the Pt precursor). NMR spectroscopic characterisation also helped to elucidate and confirm the structure. The 195Pt-NMR resonance of the AuPt complex was particularly noteworthy, showing a similar chemical shift to that of the Pt precursor, which indicates little to no electronic change at Pt0 in the new AuPt complex. This was also reflected in the 13C NMR resonances for the olefinic carbons, which again, were similar in the AuPt complex and the Pt precursor.

Figure 3: Comparing the new AuPt complex (3) to other systems with fewer bound olefins, in terms of the Au-Pt bond dissociation energy (x-axis) and the overall charge transfer between the Au and Pt (y-axis), according to three different calculations.

The authors then further probed the binding of the gold centre to the platinum, and why there was no apparent significant change in the electronics between the new AuPt complex and the Pt precursor. A comparison to the existing AuPt complexes reported revealed that these are often assigned formally as Au-IPt+II, where there is a dative interaction between the Lewis base (Pt) and the Lewis Acid (Au). In contrast, the new AuPt complex in this report is formally assigned as Au+IPt0, where there is considerably less charge transfer in the metal-metal bonding, as shown by DFT calculations (see Figure 3). This formal Au+IPt0 assignment ultimately results in the coordinated nbe olefin ligands having a low dissociation energy (i.e. they are highly labile and susceptible to ligand substitution), which is further supported by DFT calculations and is reflected in the lack of an identifiable electrospray-ionisation mass spectrometry peak for the [M]+ ion. Therefore, this new AuPt complex is a desirable precursor for the preparation of other formal Au+IPt0 complexes, which will allow for future reactivity studies on these unusual heterodinuclear systems.

To find out more, please read:

A heterodinuclear, formal Au+IPt0 complex with weakly bound alkene ligands

Lukas D. Ernst, Konstantin Koessler, Andreas Peter, Daniel Kratzert, Harald Scherer and Burkhard Butschke

Chem. Commun., 2020, 56, 5350-5353

Digg This
Reddit This
Stumble Now!
Share on Facebook
Bookmark this on Delicious
Share on LinkedIn
Bookmark this on Technorati
Post on Twitter
Google Buzz (aka. Google Reader)

Generating Electricity from Urea Using NiCoMo/Graphene Catalysts

Electro-oxidizing urea in water has the dual benefit of generating electricity and treating wastewater. In alkaline media, the sluggish kinetics of the urea oxidation reaction, CO(NH2)2 + 6OH → N2↑ + CO2↑ + 5H2O + 6e, due to its transfer of six electrons demand efficient catalysts to speed up this process.

A research team led by Xiujuan Sun and Rui Ding, both at Xiangtan University, China, used a co-precipitation method to synthesize urea-oxidation catalysts. These catalysts comprised of graphene-anchored nanoparticles of metallic Ni, Co, and Mo, as well as their alloys and hydro/oxides (NCM/G) (Figure 1). NCM/G with the optimal composition displayed a mass activity of 140.9 mA cm-2 mgcat-1 and an onset potential of 1.32 V vs. RHE (current density = 10 mA/cm2). Their results are published in Chemical Communications (DOI: 10.1039/D0CC02132F).

Figure 1. Representative (a) transmission electron microscopy image and (b-f) elemental mappings of the synthesized catalyst.

The catalysts exhibited different catalytic activities dependent on their chemical compositions, which were tunable by varying the moles of the Ni, Co, and Mo precursors. Cyclic voltammograms of various NCM/G all showed markedly increased current density at potentials beyond 0.3 V vs. Ag/AgCl in urea-containing aqueous solutions (Figure 2a), marking their catalytic activity for urea oxidation. Among all the tested catalysts, NCM/G with Ni:Co:Mo = 80:10:10 achieved the largest current density at 0.6 V vs. Ag/AgCl, indicating its highest catalytic activity. Additionally, chronoamperometry demonstrated that increasing the Mo content was beneficial for maintaining catalyst stability, as the current density of NCM/G with the lowest amount of Mo (the black curve in Figure 2b) decayed the fastest. Combining the results of cyclic voltammetry and chronoamperometry, the authors deduced that the optimal molar ratio of Ni:Co:Mo was 80:10:10.

Figure 2. (a) Cyclic voltammograms (scan rate: 1 mV/s) and (b) chronoamperometry (potential: 0.5 V vs. Ag/AgCl) profiles of NCM/G with different Ni, Co, and Mo contents. Electrolyte: 1.0 M KOH + 0.33 M urea in water. The molar ratios of Ni:Co:Mo of NCM/G 90505, 811, and 71515 are 90:5:5. 80:10:10, and 70:15:15, respectively.

The optimization of the chemical composition demonstrated in this work can rationalize the development of high-performance, metallic electrocatalysts for urea oxidation.

For expanded understanding, please read:

Trimetallic NiCoMo/Graphene Multifunctional Electrocatalysts with Moderate Structural/Electronic Effects for Highly Efficient Alkaline Urea Oxidation Reaction

Wei Shi, Xiujuan Sun, Rui Ding, Danfeng Ying, Yongfa Huang, Yuxi Huang, Caini Tan, Ziyang Jia, and Enhui Liu

Chem. Commun., 2020, DOI: 10.1039/D0CC02132F

 

Tianyu Liu acknowledges Zacary Croft at Virginia Tech, U.S., for his careful proofreading of this post.

 

About the blogger:

Tianyu Liu obtained his Ph.D. (2017) in Chemistry from the University of California, Santa Cruz, in the United States. He is passionate about the communication of scientific endeavors to both the general public and other scientists with diverse research expertise to introduce cutting-edge research to broad audiences. He is a blog writer for Chem. Comm. and Chem. Sci. More information about him can be found at http://liutianyuresearch.weebly.com/.

Digg This
Reddit This
Stumble Now!
Share on Facebook
Bookmark this on Delicious
Share on LinkedIn
Bookmark this on Technorati
Post on Twitter
Google Buzz (aka. Google Reader)

Teachable micromotors

Micromotors, for the uninitiated aka me, are a specific type of colloidal structure that harvests energy from their environment and turns it into motion. In order for them to be truly effective for possible applications though, they must be able to communicate and coordinate with one another. If you want to make microbots, they can’t just move about all willy-nilly with no regard for each other. Recently, scientists have created a mixed system where one structure sheds silver ions that cause other micromotors to accelerate, an approach that mimics natural systems like bee colonies.

Researchers in China developed a system where photochemically powered micromotors can spontaneously “teach” catalytic micromotors to oscillate without any external influence. The teachers are Janus-type microparticles composed of either polymethylmethacrylate (PMMA) or silicon dioxide particles half coated with silver. Under irradiation with KCl and H2O2, the silver can interconvert between Ag(0) and Ag(1), causing the oscillatory motion of the entire particle. In contrast, the two non-oscillatory micromotors, either polystyrene spheres half coated with platinum (PS-PT) or gold-rhodium microrods (Au-Rh), catalytically decompose H2O2 to move autonomously in standard Brownian motion. When the two types of micromotors are mixed under UV light, the motion of the non-oscillatory materials changes from random to clearly oscillating (Figure 1). The intensity of the motion change depends on the proximity of the learner to the teacher, with learners closer to the teacher displaying more intense oscillations.

Figure 1. Change in movement of non-oscillating micromotors when exposed to oscillating “teacher” structures.

In fact, the Au-Rh rods will demonstrate more intense oscillations than the PMMA-Ag particles. The researchers propose a mechanism where the PMMA-Ag particles release silver ions as they oscillate, which then deposit onto the Au-Rh rods. The silver increases the catalytic activity of the rods and then, given the operating conditions, undergoes the same redox process that causes oscillation in the PMMA-Ag system.

Figure 2. Proposed mechanism of silver release and adsorption onto Au-Rh rods.

This hypothesized mechanism is supported by the development of oscillatory behavior by the Au-Rh rods in under reaction conditions where the PMMA-Ag particles are replaced by silver ions in solution. The silver on the rod surface isn’t merely adsorbed – it forms into small silver nanoparticles which can be seen via electron microscopy, making a new trimetallic structure. These nanoparticles change the trajectories of the rods, causing them to move in circles. While this system isn’t perfect, the student structures have imperfect memories and cannot teach one another, it provides a strategy for working with groups of micromotors to move towards coordinated motion and further applications.

To find out more, please read:

Non-oscillatory micromotors ‘‘learn’’ to oscillate on-the-fly from oscillating Ag micromotors

Chao Zhou, Qizhang Wang, Xianglong Lv and Wei Wang

Chem. Commun., 2020, Advance Article

About the blogger:

Dr. Beth Mundy is a recent PhD in chemistry from the Cossairt lab at the University of Washington in Seattle, Washington. Her research focused on developing new and better ways to synthesize nanomaterials for energy applications. She is often spotted knitting in seminars or with her nose in a good book. You can find her on Twitter at @BethMundySci.

Digg This
Reddit This
Stumble Now!
Share on Facebook
Bookmark this on Delicious
Share on LinkedIn
Bookmark this on Technorati
Post on Twitter
Google Buzz (aka. Google Reader)

Potassium-Ion Batteries Welcome A New Electrode from Iron Compounds

A research team led by Jiang Zhou and Shuquan Liang of Central South University, China, recently identified iron oxyhydroxide (β-FeOOH) as a K-ion battery electrode material. It is reportedly the first iron-oxide-based compound to serve in K-ion batteries. The results have been published in Chemical Communications (DOI: 10.1039/d0cc01009j).

K-ion batteries are a new type of rechargeable battery emerging after Li-ion batteries, the charge-storage functionality of which is associated with the intercalation and de-intercalation of K+. Due to the relative abundance of K+ to Li+, K-ion batteries are poised as a promising alternative to Li-ion batteries.

The researchers made the electrode by a hydrothermal reaction. Specifically, they dispersed Super P® (SP), an electrically conductive additive, into FeCl3 aqueous solutions. The mixture was then heated at 150 °C for 10 h. The resultant powder (FeOOH-SP), comprised of uniformly mixed, crystalline β-FeOOH nanorods and Super P particles (Fig. 1), was directly used as an electrode material.

Figure 1. Transmission electron microscopy images of (a, b) FeOOH-SP and (c) FeOOH. (d) Elemental mappings of C, Fe, and O in FeOOH-SP.

The authors investigated the electrochemical properties of FeOOH-SP in K-ion batteries. At a current density of 100 mA/g, FeOOH-SP exhibited a stable specific capacity of ~200 mAh/g, approximately double and quadruple that of SP and FeOOH alone, respectively (Fig. 2a). The specific capacity of FeOOH-SP was maintained at ~100 mAh/g when the current density increased to 2000 mA/g (Fig. 2b), showing its fast-charging capability. Additionally, the authors observed that the crystalline β-FeOOH nanorods amorphized upon K+ intercalation after being discharged (Fig. 2c). Their crystallinity was only partially restored when being re-charged (Fig. 2d). The loss of crystallinity, however, did not undermine the charge-storage capacity of FeOOH-SP.

Figure 2. (a) Specific capacities of FeOOH-SP, SP, and FeOOH at different charge-discharge cycles. Current density: 100 mA/g. (b) Rate capability of FeOOH-SP. (c, d) Transmission electron microscopy images of (c) discharged and (d) charged FeOOH-SP. Red dashed boxes highlight crystalline regions. The electrolyte was a mixture of ethylene carbonate and diethyl carbonate containing 1 M potassium bis(fluorosulfonyl)imide.

Considering the low-cost of iron oxyhydroxide, FeOOH-SP could reduce the manufacturing cost of K-ion batteries and increase the affordability of electrochemical charge storage devices.

 

For expanded understanding, please read:

β-FeOOH: A New Anode for Potassium-Ion Batteries

Xiaodong Shi, Liping Qin, Guofu Xu, Shan Guo, Shuci Ma, Yunxiang Zhao, Jiang Zhou, and Shuquan Liang

Chem. Commun., 2020, 56, 3713-3716.

Tianyu Liu acknowledges Zacary Croft at Virginia Tech, U.S., for his careful proofreading of this post.

About the blogger:

Tianyu Liu obtained his Ph.D. (2017) in Chemistry from the University of California, Santa Cruz, in the United States. He is passionate about the communication of scientific endeavors to both the general public and other scientists with diverse research expertise to introduce cutting-edge research to broad audiences. He is a blog writer for Chem. Comm. and Chem. Sci. More information about him can be found at http://liutianyuresearch.weebly.com/.

Digg This
Reddit This
Stumble Now!
Share on Facebook
Bookmark this on Delicious
Share on LinkedIn
Bookmark this on Technorati
Post on Twitter
Google Buzz (aka. Google Reader)

Aluminum-Based Liquid Coordination Complexes

Before I get into the research, I just have to say that I think ionic liquids (ILs) are just cool. An ionic compound that’s a liquid? Mind blown. Not only are they interesting, but those unique properties make them attractive for industrial use. One class of ionic liquids generating research focus is halometallate ionic liquids (HILs), generated by reacting a metal halide and an organic halide salt. In particular, chloro-alluminate ILs have been some of the most promising for applications in industrial acid catalysis and are composed of anionic aluminate species. However, recent work has found mixtures of aluminum chloride and N/O/S donors produce a liquid Lewis acidic compounds, referred to as liquid coordination complexes (LCCs). These LCCs are potential replacements for HILs, as they’re typically easier and cheaper to prepare. Further studies have found ionic species by 27Al NMR, drawing parallels between LCCs and HILs. By combining AlCl3 and polar organic solvents, researchers in the US screened for novel LCC or HIL reactivity in catalysis.

This straightforward approach allowed researchers to easily tune the ratio of AlCl3 and solvent to find mixtures with desired properties. They chose the nitrogen donor 1-methylimidazole, N-Mim, and an oxygen donor N-methyl-2-pyrrolidone (O-NMP) as their solvents for testing given their wide availability and relevance to organic chemical reactivity. The selected solvent and AlCl3 were mixed at room temperature and found in all cases to form heterogenous mixtures. When heated to 100 oC mixtures with molar fractions of AlCl3 between 0.33 and 0.6 formed viscous liquids, many of which became solids at room temperature. These compounds were then crystalized for x-ray crystallographic analysis, where their structures confirmed the association of the aluminum with the nitrogen (Figure 1) or oxygen.

Figure 1. 50% probability ellipsoid plot of AlCl3(N-Mim), showing coordination between the aluminum and nitrogen

In the N-Mim system, 27Al NMR showed the formation of a single aluminum-containing species at AlCl3 molar fractions of 0.5 and below, with exchange occurring when higher concentrations of N-Mim are present. The O-NMP system proved more challenging to characterize crystallographically, potentially due to the formation of larger oligomeric complexes in the solid phase and increased disorder in the O-NMP ligand. However, 27Al NMR proved insightful and showed the presence of multiple aluminum-containing species, including several different stoichiometries of aluminum-solvent adducts.

Figure 2. Aluminum NMR spectra of aluminum/O-NMP complexes showing speciation over a range of different stoichiometries.

When the two systems were side-by-side compared for Lewis acidity and catalytic activity for the alkylization of benzene, the clear winner was the O-NMP system. The O-NMP-AlCl3 complex with an aluminum molar fraction of 0.6 was both the most Lewis acidic, determined by an acetonitrile IR probe, and the most catalytically active. It gave full conversion with a selectivity of almost 80%, while the N-Mim complex with the same mole fractions produced only a 32% conversion with no significant increase in selectivity. Complexes with less aluminum showed no signs of catalytic activity and were less Lewis acidic. The high activity of the AlCl3/O-NMP system can be explained by its possession of both a highly Lewis acidic cation [AlCl2(O-NMP)2]+ and a highly Lewis acidic anion [Al2Cl7], whose presence was identified in the NMR experiments. This work demonstrated a straightforward method to synthesize LCC-based catalysts with high activity, while providing some general guidance on the suitability of O-donor ligands for further study.

To find out more, please read:

Are ionic liquids and liquid coordination complexes really different? – Synthesis, characterization, and catalytic activity of AlCl3/base catalysts

Rajkumar Kore, Steven P. Kelley, Anand D. Sawant, Manish Kumar Mishra and Robin D. Rogers

Chem. Commun., 2020, Advance Article

About the blogger:

Dr. Beth Mundy is a recent PhD in chemistry from the Cossairt lab at the University of Washington in Seattle, Washington. Her research focused on developing new and better ways to synthesize nanomaterials for energy applications. She is often spotted knitting in seminars or with her nose in a good book. You can find her on Twitter at @BethMundySci.

Digg This
Reddit This
Stumble Now!
Share on Facebook
Bookmark this on Delicious
Share on LinkedIn
Bookmark this on Technorati
Post on Twitter
Google Buzz (aka. Google Reader)