Hierarchical nanosheets built from superatomic clusters: properties, exfoliation and single-crystal-to-single-crystal intercalation†
Tuning the properties of atomic crystals in the two-dimensional (2D) limit is synthetically challenging, but critical to unlock their potential in fundamental research and nanotechnology alike. 2D crystals assembled using superatomic blocks could provide a route to encrypt desirable functionality, yet strategies to link the inorganic blocks together in predetermined dimensionality or symmetry are scarce. Here, we describe the synthesis of anisotropic van der Waals crystalline frameworks using the designer superatomic nanocluster Co3(py)3Co6Se8L6 (py = pyridine, L = Ph2PN(Tol)), and ditopic linkers. Post-synthetically, the 3D crystals can be mechanically exfoliated into ultrathin flakes (8 to 60 nm), or intercalated with the redox-active guest tetracyanoethylene in a single-crystal-to-single-crystal transformation. Extensive characterization, including by single crystal X-ray diffraction, reveals how intrinsic features of the nanocluster, such as its structure, chirality, redox-activity and magnetic profile, predetermine key properties of the emerging 2D structures. Within the nanosheets, the strict and unusual stereoselectivity of the nanocluster's Co edges for the low symmetry (α,α,β) isomer gives rise to in-plane structural anisotropy, while the helically chiral nanoclusters self-organize into alternating Δ- and Λ-homochiral rows. The nanocluster's high-spin Co edges, and its rich redox profile make the nanosheets both magnetically and electrochemically active, as revealed by solid state magnetic and cyclic voltammetry studies. The length and flexibility of the ditopic linker was varied, and found to have a secondary effect on the structure and stacking of the nanosheets within the 3D crystals. With these results we introduce a deterministic and versatile synthetic entry to programmable functionality and symmetry in 2D superatomic crystals.
- This article is part of the themed collection: Celebrating 10 years of Chemical Science