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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/R03382X/1
Title: Photocatalysis in coordination cages using supramolecular arrays of chromophores
Principal Investigator: Ward, Professor MD
Other Investigators:
Stavros, Professor V
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
Department: Chemistry
Organisation: University of Warwick
Scheme: Standard Research
Starts: 01 July 2018 Ends: 30 June 2021 Value (£): 473,930
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Catalysis & Applied Catalysis Chemical Synthetic Methodology
Physical Organic Chemistry
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
No relevance to Underpinning Sectors
Related Grants:
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
07 Mar 2018 EPSRC Physical Sciences - March 2018 Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form
The use of light to cause chemical reactions is well established and, from a renewable energy perspective, of fundamental importance. A recently-developed way in which this can be made to happen is via 'photo-redox catalysis'. A metal complex catalyst, or an organic catalyst, absorbs light to enter an high-energy excited state which persists for hundreds / thousands of nanoseconds; this can then donate an electron to (or accept an electron from) a substrate, generating a radical anion (or cation) which then undergoes the desired reaction. In the last 10 years this use of the photophysical properties of simple light-absorbing species with appropriate excited states has become a well-established tool in synthetic chemistry.

In this project we wish to take this principle to a much higher level by using coordination cages - hollow, pseudo-spherical metal/ligand assemblies with large central cavities that can accommodate small molecule 'guests' - as multi-component catalysts. The cages contain large numbers of metal and ligand components built into their superstructure in a regular array surrounding the central cavity. They can be prepared in such a way that they contain large numbers of metal complex catalysts or organic catalyst units in the superstructure. In the largest cages of the type that we will prepare, 24 individual aromatic luminescent units can be incorporated into a single cage-like assembly surrounding a central cavity which a 'guest' molecule will bind. Having 24 potential photo-redox catalysts surrounding a single reactive species could would be almost impossible to achieve in any other way.

The aim is to see if, when a potential substrate (reactant) is bound inside the central cavity of one of the cages, it undergoes a photo-redox catalytic transformation far more effectively than when it is free in solution where it has to collide randomly with the catalyst in the short space of time that the catalyst excited state exists. Binding the substrate in the cage cavity removes the requirement for chance collisions of separate species in solution by holding the guest very close to a high local concentration of catalyst units, such that electron transfer will be very fast and hence the catalysis should be much faster and more efficient. In addition, because the cage cavities show size- and shape-selectivity for the guests that they bind, the cage-based catalysts should show much higher selectivity for specific substrates allowing one substrate from a mixture to be selected, bound, transformed and ejected form the cavity whilst others are unaffected. Success here will result in a new generation of photo-redox catalysts, based on supramolecular host/guest principles, that are far more effective than the current ones.

In addition, the exciting possibility exists that - given a single molecule of a substrate surrounded by a large number of potential electron-donors - two electrons could be transferred essentially simultaneously to a single guest to give a doubly-reduced product. This is extremely difficult to achieve normally because of the unlikelihood of one substrate molecule colliding with two one-electron catalyst molecules while they are both in their short-lived excited state; an analogy would be like trying to hit a flying clay target with two rifle bullets simultaneously. However the very high local concentration of large numbers of chromophores around each bound guest makes this much more statistically likely, such that two-electron photocatalysis may become a reality in a wide range of cage/guest systems. This is of fundamental importance for solar energy harvesting as many of the important reactions involved in either water splitting to generate H2 fuel, or fixation of CO2 to generate methanol as a fuel, require simultaneous transfer of two electrons: use of coordination cages as multi-electron photo-redox catalysts could make this a reality.

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Organisation Website: http://www.warwick.ac.uk