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Enantiospecific electrodeposition of a chiral catalyst


Many biomolecules are chiral—they can exist in one of two enantiomeric forms that only differ in that their structures are mirror images of each other. Because only one enantiomer tends to be physiologically active while the other is inactive or even toxic, drug compounds are increasingly produced in an enantiomerically pure form1 using solution-phase homogeneous catalysts and enzymes. Chiral surfaces offer the possibility of developing heterogeneous enantioselective catalysts that can more readily be separated from the products and reused. In addition, such surfaces might serve as electrochemical sensors for chiral molecules. To date, chiral surfaces have been obtained by adsorbing chiral molecules2,3,4,5,6 or slicing single crystals so that they exhibit high-index faces7,8,9,10,11,12,13, and some of these surfaces act as enantioselective heterogeneous catalysts5,6,10. Here we show that chiral surfaces can also be produced through electrodeposition, a relatively simple solution-based process that resembles biomineralization14,15,16,17 in that organic molecules adsorbed on surfaces have profound effects on the morphology of the inorganic deposits18,19,20. When electrodepositing a copper oxide film on an achiral gold surface in the presence of tartrate ion in the deposition solution, the chirality of the ion determines the chirality of the deposited film, which in turn determines the film's enantiospecificity during subsequent electrochemical oxidation reactions.

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Figure 1: X-ray diffraction of electrodeposited CuO.
Figure 2: Determination of the absolute configuration of chiral CuO. X-ray pole figures of CuO films on Au(001) deposited from a, Cu(ii)(S,S-tartrate), b, Cu(ii)(R,R-tartrate), and c, racemic Cu(ii)(tartrate).
Figure 3: Outline of the enantiospecific electrodeposition scheme.
Figure 4: Chiral recognition by electrodeposited CuO.


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This work was supported by the National Science Foundation and the University of Missouri Research Board.

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Correspondence to Jay A. Switzer.

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Switzer, J., Kothari, H., Poizot, P. et al. Enantiospecific electrodeposition of a chiral catalyst. Nature 425, 490–493 (2003).

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