Host-Guest Interactions on Electrode Surfaces for Immobilization of Molecular Catalysts

The strategy of anchoring molecular catalysts on electrode surfaces combines the high selectivity and activity of molecular systems with the practicality of heterogeneous systems. The stability of molecular catalysts is, however, far less than that of traditional heterogeneous electrocatalysts, and therefore a method to easily replace anchored molecular catalysts that have degraded could make such electrosynthetic systems more attractive. Here, we apply a non-covalent “click” chemistry approach to reversibly bind molecular electrocatalysts to electrode surfaces via host-guest complexation with surface-anchored cyclodextrins. The host-guest interaction is remarkably strong and allows the flow of electrons between the electrode and the guest catalyst. Electrosynthesis in both organic and aqueous media was demonstrated on metal oxide electrodes, with stability on the order of hours. The catalytic surfaces can be recycled by controlled release of the guest from the host cavities and readsorption of fresh guest. This strategy represents a new approach to practical molecular-based catalytic systems.