Mesoporous carbon nitrides: synthesis, functionalization, and applications
Mesoporous carbon nitrides (MCNs) with large surface areas and uniform pore diameters are unique semiconducting materials and exhibit highly versatile structural and excellent physicochemical properties, which promote their application in diverse fields such as metal free catalysis, photocatalytic water splitting, energy storage and conversion, gas adsorption, separation, and even sensing. These fascinating MCN materials can be obtained through the polymerization of different aromatic and/or aliphatic carbons and high nitrogen containing molecular precursors via hard and/or soft templating approaches. One of the unique characteristics of these materials is that they exhibit both semiconducting and basic properties, which make them excellent platforms for the photoelectrochemical conversion and sensing of molecules such as CO2, and the selective sensing of toxic organic acids. The semiconducting features of these materials are finely controlled by varying the nitrogen content or local electronic structure of the MCNs. The incorporation of different functionalities including metal nanoparticles or organic molecules is further achieved in various ways to develop new electronic, semiconducting, catalytic, and energy harvesting materials. Dual functionalities including acidic and basic groups are also introduced in the wall structure of MCNs through simple UV-light irradiation, which offers enzyme-like properties in a single MCN system. In this review article, we summarize and highlight the existing literature covering every aspect of MCNs including their templating synthesis, modification and functionalization, and potential applications of these MCN materials with an overview of the key and relevant results. A special emphasis is given on the catalytic applications of MCNs including hydrogenation, oxidation, photocatalysis, and CO2 activation.