Ionic organic cage-encapsulating phase-transferable metal clusters†
Exploration of metal clusters (MCs) adaptive to both aqueous and oil phases without disturbing their size is promising for a broad scope of applications. The state-of-the-art approach via ligand-binding may perturb MCs' size due to varied metal–ligand binding strength when shuttling between solvents of different polarity. Herein, we applied physical confinement of a series of small noble MCs (<1 nm) inside ionic organic cages (I-Cages), which by means of anion exchange enables reversible transfer of MCs between aqueous and hydrophobic solutions without varying their ultrasmall size. Moreover, the MCs@I-Cage hybrid serves as a recyclable, reaction-switchable catalyst featuring high activity in liquid-phase NH3BH3 (AB) hydrolysis reaction with a turnover frequency (TOF) of 115 min−1.