Organic-to-Metal Linkages in Nanostructures
The idea of creating chemical bonds between metals and organic molecules seems far-fetched considering the fundamental differences in their properties. But combining these properties can generate novel biosensors, because the organic surface can be tailored to interact with DNA, viruses and proteins. Alternatively, highly active and selective catalysts can be generated with the metal serving as the site for reactivity while the organic component provides selectivity by interacting with organic reactants.
As Canada Research Chair in Metal Organic Chemistry, Dr. Cathleen Crudden is investigating how organic compounds interact with metals in the synthesis of novel materials to develop highly active catalysts.
Significant strides have been made in these areas, but a lack of robustness in the metal-to-organic linkage results in catalysts that degrade or biosensors that give false readings. In fact, some of the most sensitive biosensors and microelectronics are still derived from 1980s technology that uses sulfur-terminated organic molecules to bind to metal surfaces. This is driven by the strength of the sulfur-metal bond, which is why sulfur is used to clean up mercury spills in high school chemistry classes. But this bond is not actually very stable, and decomposes with heat, oxygen or pH changes.
Crudden has already shown that carbon-to-metal bonds can be significantly more stable. Now, she and her research group will investigate the implications of these novel strong linkages in the preparation of novel biosensors, microelectronics and catalysts. In particular, they will focus on films that are 100,000 times thinner than human hair and on nanoscopically ordered particles that feature bonds between metal clusters and organic ligands.