American Chemical Society
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Tuning Crystallinity and Stacking of Two-Dimensional Covalent Organic Frameworks through Side-Chain Interactions

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posted on 2023-09-29, 16:34 authored by Chloe E. Pelkowski, Anusree Natraj, Christos D. Malliakas, David W. Burke, Madison I. Bardot, Zixiao Wang, Haoyuan Li, William R. Dichtel
Two-dimensional covalent organic frameworks (2D COFs) form as layered 2D polymers whose sheets stack through high-surface-area, noncovalent interactions that can give rise to different interlayer arrangements. Manipulating the stacking of 2D COFs is crucial since it dictates the effective size and shape of the pores as well as the specific interactions between functional aromatic systems in adjacent layers, both of which will strongly influence the emergent properties of 2D COFs. However, principles for tuning layer stacking are not yet well understood, and many 2D COFs are disordered in the stacking direction. Here, we investigate effects of pendant chain length through a series of 2D imine-linked COFs functionalized with n-alkyloxy chains varying in length from one carbon (C1 COF) to 11 carbons (C11 COF). This series reveals previously unrecognized and unanticipated trends in both the stacking geometry and crystallinity. C1 COF adopts an averaged eclipsed geometry with no apparent offset between layers. In contrast, all subsequent chain lengths lead to some degree of unidirectional slip stacking. As pendant chain length is increased, trends show average layer offset increasing to a maximum of 2.07 Å in C5 COF and then decreasing as chain length is extended through C11 COF. Counterintuitively, shorter chains (C2–C4) give rise to lower yields of weakly crystalline materials, while longer chains (C6–C9) produce greater yields of highly crystalline materials, as confirmed by powder X-ray diffraction and scanning electron microscopy. Molecular dynamics simulations corroborate these observations, suggesting that long alkyl chains can interact favorably to promote the self-assembly of sheets. In situ proton NMR spectroscopy provides insights into the reaction equilibrium as well as the relationship between low COF yields and low crystallinity. These results provide fundamental insights into principles of supramolecular assembly in 2D COFs, demonstrating an opportunity for harnessing favorable side-chain interactions to produce highly crystalline materials.