Zeolite molecular accessibility and host–guest interactions studied by adsorption of organic probes of tunable size†
A series of fluorescent probe molecules based on the commercially available trans-4-(4-(diethylamino)styryl)-N-methylpyridinium iodide (DAMPI) scaffold has been developed. The dynamic radii of these DAMPI-type probes covered a range of 5.8 to 10.1 Å and could be changed by varying the alkyl substituents on the amine donor group, with limited effect on the electronic properties. These probe molecules allow for the direct evaluation of the molecular accessibility into confined spaces, more specifically the micropore architecture of zeolite materials. Evaluation of industrially relevant zeolite materials with 8- (CHA), 10- (MFI) and 12-membered ring pores (FAU) showed that steric bulk influences the rate of adsorption, the amount of probe molecule taken up by the zeolite as well as the interaction of the probe molecule with the zeolite material. Furthermore, a positive linear correlation is found between the pore–probe size difference and total probe uptake by the zeolite. The absorption spectra of each probe molecule within the zeolites show that this DAMPI-type compound is chemically bound to the zeolite's acid sites. The new approach shows the general principle of determining size-accessibility relationships in microporous solids with a series of fluorescent probes of systematically tunable size.