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Formation of thermally stable alkylidene layers on a catalytically active surface


Materials containing organic–inorganic interfaces usually display a combination of molecular and solid-state properties, which are of interest for applications ranging from chemical sensing1 to microelectronics2 and catalysis3. Thiols—organic compounds carrying a SH group—are widely used to anchor organic layers to gold surfaces6, because gold is catalytically sufficiently active to replace relatively weak S–H bonds with Au–S bonds, yet too inert to attack C–C and C–H bonds in the organic layer. But although several methods4,5,6 of functionalizing the surfaces of semiconductors, oxides and metals are known, it remains difficult to attach a wide range of more complex organic species. Organic layers could, in principle, be formed on the surfaces of metals that are capable of inserting into strong bonds, but such surfaces catalyse the decomposition of organic layers at temperatures above 400 to 600 K, through progressive C–H and C–C bond breaking7. Here we report that cycloketones adsorbed on molybdenum carbide, a material known to catalyse a variety of hydrocarbon conversion reactions8,9,10,11, transform into surface-bound alkylidenes stable to above 900 K. We expect that this chemistry can be used to create a wide range of exceptionally stable organic layers on molybdenum carbide.

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Figure 1: High-temperature formation of cyclobutanone on the catalytically active β-Mo2C surface.
Figure 2: Infrared reflectance spectra showing the cleavage of the cyclobutanone carbonyl bond and the formation of surface cyclobutylidene.
Figure 3: Schematic illustration of reversible cleavage of the cycloketone carbonyl bond mediated by alkylidene-Mo-oxo.
Figure 4: Direct chemical determination of the presence of surface alkylidenes by performing an olefin metathesis reaction.


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We acknowledge the technical assistance of A. Bouffard and J. Lafrerière, and financial support from the National Science and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) and Le Fonds pour la Formation de Chercheurs et l'Aide à la Recherche (FCAR). We thank S. T. Oyama for the preparation of the molybdenum carbide samples.

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Correspondence to Peter H. McBreen.

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Zahidi, E., Oudghiri-Hassani, H. & McBreen, P. Formation of thermally stable alkylidene layers on a catalytically active surface. Nature 409, 1023–1026 (2001).

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