Daniel Eduardo Hurtado Salinas
The structure of a biological system defines its function. Therefore, nature has developed sophisticated systems that catalyze chemical reactions that are vital for life on earth. For instance, the photosynthesis is a biological process that is partially regulated by the metallo-enzyme RuBisCO (Ribulose-1,5-bisphosphate carboxylase/oxygenase), whose function is to catalyze the capture and transfer of CO2 into organic molecules. This carboxylation reaction occurs at the active site, where a magnesium ion (Mg2+) is bound to organic molecules with carboxylate (COO-) and amine (NH2) functional groups.
In the last decades, supramolecular chemistry has proven to be a valid approach to replicate the structural characteristics of these natural metal-organic systems. Metal atoms and organic molecules are used as building blocks to form two-dimensional (2D) metal-organic networks (MONs) on metal surfaces, through a self-assembly process that occurs spontaneously. In these systems the molecules bind to the metal centers and control their oxidation states that, as found in metallo-enzymes, is crucial to perform a catalytic task. Therefore, these supramolecular assemblies show promising features to be explored for heterogeneous catalysis.
The main objective of this thesis is to reverse the structure-function equation, that is: instead of finding specific functions of well-known 2D structures for future applications, 2D structures are designed to reproduce the specific functions of well-known bio-systems. Thus, inspired in the structure of the active site of RuBisCO, 2D Mg-based supramolecular assemblies are rationally designed on Cu(100) or Mg(0001) surfaces at room temperature (RT) as a platform for CO2 adsorption. This work is the first study of self-assembly of alkaline earth metal atoms (Mg) with organic molecules ((1,4-benzenedicarboxylic acid (TPA) and 2,4,6-tris(4-aminophenyl)-1,3,5-triazine (TAPT)) on metal surfaces.
The first part of this thesis investigates the self-assembly of TAPT molecules. Scanning Tunneling Microscopy (STM) and High Resolution X-ray Photoemission Spectroscopy (HR-XPS) demonstrate that the molecules typically semi-deprotonate to form MONs with the adatoms from the host substrates. The exposure of these structures to CO2 results in the carboxylation of the amino groups.
The second part proves that the COOH moieties of TPA molecules fully-deprotonate to form homo-molecular structures. The incorporation of Mg adatoms result in ionic MONs, which reproduce the carboxylate environment of the active site of RuBiSCO. STM, XPS and Density Functional Theory (DFT) analyze the structural changes, the chemical reactions and charge transfer during either the CO2 or O2 adsorption on the Mg2+ centers.
The last part focusses on the co-deposition of both molecules to form 2D metallic-hetero-molecular networks with Mg2+ centers. The role of the Mg2+ centers as active sites for molecular adsorption and model systems for gas storage is studied. STM reveals that CO2 partially modifies the network towards a configuration that resembles the active site of RuBisCO. The formation of 3D structures to enhance CO2 adsorption is also evaluated.EPFL