Structure-property-activity relationships in a pyridine containing azine-linked covalent organic framework for photocatalytic hydrogen evolution
Organic solids such as covalent organic frameworks (COFs), porous polymers and carbon nitrides have garnered attention as a new generation of photocatalysts that offer tunability of their optoelectronic properties both at the molecular level and at the nanoscale. Owing to their inherent porosity and well-ordered nanoscale architectures, COFs are an especially attractive platform for the rational design of new photocatalysts for light-induced hydrogen evolution. In this report, our previous design strategy of altering the nitrogen content in an azine-linked COF platform to tune photocatalytic hydrogen evolution is extended to a pyridine-based photocatalytically active framework, where nitrogen substitution in the peripheral aryl rings reverses the polarity compared to the previously studied materials. We demonstrate how simple changes at the molecular level translate into significant differences in atomic-scale structure, nanoscale morphology and optoelectronic properties, which greatly affect the photocatalytic hydrogen evolution efficiency. In an effort to understand the complex interplay of such factors, we carve out the conformational flexibility of the PTP-COF precursor and the vertical radical anion stabilization energy as important descriptors to understand the performance of the COF photocatalysts.