The Chemical Synthesis Program of the Division of Chemistry supports the project by Professor Tong Ren. Professor Ren is a faculty member in the Department of Chemistry at Purdue University. He and his coworkers are developing new classes of metal alkynyl complexes with interesting photochemical properties. The goal of this research is to establish a unique family of donor-metal-alkynyl-acceptor complexes based on earth abundant metals, to study how electrons move within these molecules under sunlight, and to learn how to control such electron movement. This study may provide clues on how to improve molecular photovoltaic systems for the conversion of solar energy into electricity using earth abundant materials. The project involves both organic and inorganic syntheses and ultrafast spectroscopy, which provides broad training for both graduate and undergraduate students. Professor Ren's group is also actively engaging students underrepresented in science, and plays a significant role in bringing the state of arts equipment to the K-12 students in the rural areas of Indiana by enhancing their hands-on laboratory experience. This research and education program promotes US competitiveness through an exploration of sustainable systems for photovoltaics, photocatalysis, and molecular electronic devices.
Transition metal acetylide compounds have been employed in a number of technologically important areas including photovoltaics, photo-catalysis and molecular electronic devices. The current project begins with the preparation of the symmetric and unsymmetric bis-alkynyl metal complexes supported by C-substituted cyclams. A special focus of the synthetic effort is the donor-bridge-acceptor (D-B-A) dyads, where D and A are respectively alkynyls capped with appropriate electron donor and acceptor, and B is the M(cyclam) unit. Besides the establishment of molecular geometry through single crystal X-ray diffraction, the degree of donor-acceptor interaction and its impact on redox and photophysical properties is assessed using voltammetric, spectroelectrochemical and steady-state emission spectroscopic techniques. Through the collaboration with both colleagues at Purdue and elsewhere, the investigators explore the attenuation of photoinduced electron transfer within the D-B-A dyad using both pump-probe and pump-pump-probe techniques. The transformative nature of the project lies in the promise of replacing precious metals in metal-alkynyl based materials with earth abundant 3d metals and discovering new electronic and optoelectronic properties. Professor Ren is striving to broaden the participation in chemical research enterprise by underrepresented groups on multiple levels from incoming freshman to junior faculty, and has maintained a diverse research group. Professor Ren and his coworkers also play an active role in Purdue's Science Express program, especially in introducing new teaching modules that reflect the heightened interest in sustainable chemistry.
This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.