Nano-tattoos for bespoke surface design

11-Jun-2013 - France

Research reports a new strategy for using atomic force microscopy (AFM) coupled with homogeneous catalysis to carry out chemical reactions that have been ‘tattooed’ onto a material surface.

Researchers in France immobilised a homogeneous transition metal catalyst onto an AFM probe and used it to perform alkene epoxidations in precisely-defined areas on a self-assembled monolayer (SAM). Epoxides are a commonly used synthetic handle in organic chemistry because of the possibility to generate highly regio- and stereoselective reaction intermediates.

The scientists carried out epoxidation of an alkene-terminated SAM on silicon using hydrogen peroxide as an oxidant and a catalytic silicon AFM tip charged with manganese complexes. The resulting array of surface bound epoxides provides ideal anchoring sites for covalent grafting of larger substrates, such as proteins, onto the surface in a predefined pattern.

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