Research by team led by Spokoyny group featured in Nature Materials

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PhD student Dahee Jung leads team to develop a method to create linked networks of metal oxides that could have interesting catalytic or electronic properties.

Jung, a 4th year chemistry graduate student, was first author and Professor Alexander Spokoyny was senior author on the team’s paper titled “A molecular cross-linking approach for hybrid metal oxides” which was published online on March 5, 2018, in Nature Materials. Their research was also recently featured in the Royal Society of Chemistry’s publication Chemistry World.

Several Chemistry & Biochemistry faculty members, researchers, postdoctoral fellows, and graduate students were part of the research team as well as researchers from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory, UC Santa Barbara, Purdue University and the University of Oregon.

The researchers have devised a new way to create molecular interconnections that can give a certain class of materials exciting new properties, including improving their ability to catalyze chemical reactions or harvest energy from light. The key to the formation of these metal oxide networks is boron, which can be made to act as a glue that connects a metal oxide web.

“This glue has the ability to be a key component of the entire reactive system, changing the properties that the metal oxides had on their own,” Spokoyny said. Metal oxides are of interest to scientists because of their unique electronic and catalytic properties.

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Cartoon model representing an interface between metal oxide nanoparticles and boron clusters. 

In the future, the researchers seek to design a way to create precisely tailored materials by perfecting how interconnecting clusters of boron “glue” are interspersed within the metal oxide.

“If we can stitch in these molecules exactly where we want them to be, it will give us a powerful ability to make hybrid materials with a wide range of uses,” Spokoyny said.

Spokoyny takes an interdisciplinary approach, focusing on challenges in chemistry, biology, medicine and materials science. He and his research team establish fundamentally new synthetic avenues and develop an extensive and versatile synthetic toolbox, including multifunctional, atomically precise, nano-sized molecules. His research reveals novel and potentially useful solutions to important problems in science and technology, including catalysis, energy storage, and protein recognition and labeling. To learn more about the Spokoyny group’s research, visit their website.

Funding sources for this research include the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Basic Energy Sciences, division of chemical sciences, biosciences and geosciences; Alfred P. Sloan Foundation and National Science Foundation.