Next-gen materials

by | Apr 8, 2022 | Big Ideas, Spring 2022 | 0 comments

Faculty member and student talking in lab on Mines campus

Chalcogen bonding, a recently discovered interaction between molecules, could lead the realization of a new class of crystalline framework materials: Chalcogen-Bonded Organic Frameworks.

Mike McGuirk, assistant professor of chemistry, received a National Science Foundation CAREER Award for research related to this idea that could contribute to the discovery of new materials for solar energy production, low density conductors and more. He shared more about why this work is important and the impact this could have on our materials knowledge.

The problem

“We are seeking to understand if chalcogen bonding should join the ranks of other long-studied inter-molecule linkages, like covalent, hydrogen, and coordination bonds, in the realm of synthesizing porous frameworks,” McGuirk said. “These efforts build on our recent discovery of the first example of a porous chalcogen-bonded framework in 2021.”

The hypothesis

“Because of its unique combination of physical properties, we hypothesize that porous frameworks built through chalcogen bonding will exhibit structural and physical properties complementary to established systems, therefore filling functional gaps of established systems,” McGuirk explained. “For example, we believe chalcogen-bonded frameworks have great potential in the realms of solar harvesting for clean energy production, self-healing materials and electron conduction. Furthermore, the establishment of this complementary class of materials, along with insights from proposed fundamental studies, will help cement chalcogen bonding as a reliable and intuitive interaction in the chemistry and materials community.”

Potential applications

“Since their discovery about 25 years ago, porous framework materials assembled through coordination or covalent bonds have led to a materials revolution,” McGuirk said. “With this broad class of materials, chemists can design and synthesize nanoscale and sub-nanoscale environments across many orders of magnitude. This has led to great leaps in a broad assortment of applications, such as water harvesting from arid environments, capture of CO2 from the burning of fossil fuels, and even the delivery of small snippets of DNA to cells.”