Skip to main content
European Commission logo print header

Article Category

Content archived on 2023-04-17

Article available in the following languages:


Nanometric carbon nitride photocatalysts with “à la carte” properties

Science Advances has published a CIC biomaGUNE study led by Ikerbasque professor and AXA Chair Maurizio Prato. In the study they have determined that simple, post-synthetic structural modifications can greatly influence the photocatalytic activity of carbon nitrides.

Fundamental Research icon Fundamental Research

Industry has an increasingly urgent need to switch to new, sustainable, synthetic schemes to access widely used chemicals. In this context, it is crucial to come up with heterogeneous photocatalysis processes using readily available, metal-free catalysts. Carbon nitride is a carbon- and nitrogen-based nanomaterial, capable of absorbing visible light and using the energy present in photons to catalyze chemical reactions of industrial interest. Carbon nitride is a photocatalyst that is easy to produce on a large scale using widely available, cost-effective precursors. This heterogeneous material is stable, robust and can be easily recycled. What is more, carbon nitride could be used to replace costly and potentially toxic metal-based catalysts. A study conducted in the Carbon Bionanotechnology lab at CIC biomaGUNE and published in Science Advances has determined how simple, post-synthetic structural modifications can greatly influence the photocatalytic activity of carbon nitrides. “The perfecting of the chemical and physical properties of this material can provide the carbon nitride with new structural features and therefore modify its photocatalytic activity," explained Maurizio Prato, an Ikerbasque professor and AXA Chair. What is new about this study lies in “the evaluation of how different post-synthetic modifications confer different, specific photocatalytic activities of the resulting materials in relation to an organic reaction model.” In particular, innovative, mechanistic studies relating to the interaction between the surface of the nanomaterials and the reagents used have been conducted. This interaction varies with post-synthetic modification and, as a result, carbon nitride could be selected as the most catalytically effective. In addition, “the rationalization of the chemical phenomena taking place on the surface of the material turned out to be a fundamental parameter for the design of new and more efficient catalytic systems,” he pointed out. Right now, the use of carbon nitride is being explored for producing clean energies, such as hydrogen production, water oxidation in oxygen and the transformation of carbon dioxide into organic compounds of industrial significance. “In our study, an organic reaction was developed for synthesizing molecules with a high fluorine content, which is useful in the pharmaceutical, agri-food and materials science fields,” added Prato. The reaction studied was also carried out in the presence of sunlight “and performed extremely well”. In Prato’s opinion, “our study could be a starting point for establishing a new approach in the development of heterogeneous photocatalysts and for laying the foundations for a new approach in the engineering of these materials with respect to specific applications.” Bibliographical references G. Filippini, F. Longobardo, L. Forster, A. Criado, G. Di Carmine, L. Nasi, C. D’Agostino, M. Melchionna, P. Fornasiero, M. Prato Light-driven, heterogeneous organocatalysts for novel C-C-bond formation towards valuable perfluoroalkylated intermediates. Science Advances DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.abc9923 About CIC biomaGUNE The Center for Cooperative Research in Biomaterials, CIC biomaGUNE, member of the Basque Research and Technology Alliance (BRTA), conducts state-of-the-art research at the interface between Chemistry, Biology and Physics devoting particular attention to studying the properties of biological nanostructures on a molecular scale and their biomedical applications. It was recognized in 2018 as a “María de Maeztu” Unit of Excellence for meeting requirements of excellence, which are characterized by a high impact and level of competitiveness in its field of activity on the global scientific stage.