KAUST professor Cafer Yavuz (left) and research scientist Thien Nguyen (right) in their lab. Photo: © 2023 KAUST; Eliza Mkhitaryan.
KAUST professor Cafer Yavuz (left) and research scientist Thien Nguyen (right) in their lab. Photo: © 2023 KAUST; Eliza Mkhitaryan.

A simple technique for reproducibly creating Swiss-cheese-like nanomaterials has been developed by researchers at King Abdullah University of Science & Technology (KAUST). This material, and the method required to create it, could help in the development of further advanced materials with applications in photocatalysis and optoelectronics.

Porous materials are low-density solids characterized by having a lot of empty space within the bulk of the substance. These voids give porous materials a very large surface area, which is excellent for adsorbing other chemicals and acting as an enhanced catalyst for chemical reactions.

Porous organic polymers (POPs) have shown particular promise for these applications because of their high porosity and their chemical and thermal stability. Furthermore, their chemical response can be tailored to capture specific target molecules and enhance selected reactions.

Cafer Yavuz and his colleagues at KAUST, collaborating with co-workers at institutions in Korea and the US, have now demonstrated a simple ‘one-pot’, catalyst-free process for creating a highly porous POP called poly(aryl thioether). They report this process in a paper in Angewandte Chemie International Edition.

“We’ve shown that polyarylthioethers can be produced simply from sodium sulfide and perfluorinated aromatics,” says Yavuz. “We believe that we have uncovered a powerful strategy that went against common understanding and could be used to build sulfur-based materials in a tunable fashion.”

Poly(aryl thioether)s are made of perfluorinated aromatic compounds bound together by sulfur linkers. One of the challenges in reproducibly creating the material is that the sodium sulfide can react with the perfluorinated aromatic compounds at a few different atomic sites. This means that a single reaction can create various different structures.

Yavuz and the team created their poly(aryl thioether) using a technique known as polycondensation. Through careful temperature control, they were able to ensure the formation of bonds at a particular atomic site. This prevented random crosslinking and allowed a high level of control over the material’s porosity.

The researchers also demonstrated that the resulting porous organic polymer had a pore size of less than 1nm and exhibited a high surface area of up to 753m2 per gram of material. The team was able to demonstrate the utility of this substance by using it to remove organic micropollutants and toxic mercury ions from water.

“We would like to now prepare large-scale batches and provide these new porous materials for electronic or photocatalytic applications,” says Yavuz. “For this, we will be working with the electronics industry and water treatment facilities.”

This story is adapted from material from KAUST, with editorial changes made by Materials Today. The views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent those of Elsevier. Link to original source.