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Atomic Sulfur Formation Mechanism on 3‑Mercaptopropanoic Acid Derivative Self-Assembled Monolayers: Understanding the C–S Bond Cleavage

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journal contribution
posted on 24.09.2019, 14:36 by Julio C. Azcárate, Natalia D. Aagaard, Guillermo Zampieri, Eugenia Zelaya, Mariano H. Fonticelli
Self-assembled monolayers (SAMs) of ω-carboxylic acid thiols are very important in the surface modification of metals, especially on gold surfaces. Indeed, the 3-mercaptopropanoic acid (MPA) and its ester or amide derivatives are widely used for SAM-based sensor design. It was already shown that MPA does not suffer C–S bond scission when adsorbed on Au. On the other hand, in this work we demonstrate that its simplest derivative, methyl 3-mercapto propionate (Me-MPA), is prone to form significant amounts of atomic sulfur when adsorbed on Au. The MPA derivatives are more sensible than MPA itself to alkaline solutions, and its SAM-based sensors will rapidly degrade given atomic sulfur. In this work, we study the simplest MPA derivative Me-MPA SAMs on preferentially oriented Au(111) surfaces by XPS and electrochemical measurements. It was found that the desulfuration of Me-MPA depends on its preparation conditions (grown from ethanol or toluene solution) and on its post-treatment with alkaline solution. In order to explain the S–C bond scission on Me-MPA SAMs, we discuss different reaction mechanisms. We concluded that the reaction mechanism involves an E1cB elimination pathway (β-elimination). This reaction mechanism also explains the desulfuration behavior of other important related molecules like l-cysteine and glutathione.