Lanthanide-Directed Assembly of Interfacial Coordination Architectures-From Complex Networks to Functional Nanosystems

David Écija, José I. Urgel, Ari P. Seitsonen, Willi Auwärter, Johannes V. Barth

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

54 Scopus citations


ConspectusMetallo-supramolecular engineering on surfaces provides a powerful strategy toward low-dimensional coordination architectures with prospects for several application fields. To date, most efforts have relied on transition metal centers, and only recently did we pioneer lanthanide-directed assembly. Coordination spheres and motifs with rare-earth elements generally display distinct properties and structural features. The size of the cations and shielding role of the 4f orbitals induces high coordination numbers, frequently entailing flexible coordination geometries. Following Pearson's hard and soft acid-base theory, lanthanide cations are hard Lewis acids and thus feature strong affinity for nitrile, terpyridine, and carboxylate donor moieties. The prevailing oxidation state is +3, although in certain compounds stable +2 or +4 cations occur. The chemistry of rare-earth elements is currently receiving widespread attention, as they are key ingredients for established and emerging 21st century science and technology with relevance for energy conversion, sensing, catalysis, magnetism, photonics, telecommunications, superconductivity, biomedicine, and quantum engineering.In this Account, we review recent advances toward the design of interfacial supramolecular nanoarchitectures incorporating lanthanide centers. We apply controlled ultrahigh vacuum conditions whereby atomistically clean substrates are prepared and exposed to ultrapure atomic and molecular beams of the chosen sublimable constituents. We focus on direct molecular-level investigations and in situ assembly operative close to equilibrium conditions. Our scanning probe microscopy techniques provide atomistic insights regarding the formation, stability, and manipulability of metal-organic compounds and networks. In order to gain deeper insights into the experimental findings, complementary computational analysis of bond characteristics, electronic properties, and coordination motifs has been performed for several case studies. Exemplary elements under consideration include cerium, gadolinium, dysprosium, and europium. By the use of ditopic molecular linkers equipped with carbonitrile moieties, adaptive coordination spheres are unveiled, yielding vertices with two- to sixfold symmetry. The respective coordination nodes underlie the expression of complex networks, such as semiregular Archimedean tessellations for cerium- or gadolinium-directed assemblies and random-tiling quasicrystalline characteristics for europium. Tunability via constituent stoichiometry regulation is revealed for bimolecular arrangements embedding europium centers, simultaneously connecting to carbonitrile and terypyridine ligands. Ditopic carboxylate linkers yield robust reticular networks based on a lateral coordination number of 8 for either gadolinium or dysprosium complexation, featuring a prevalent ionic nature of the coordination bond. Orthogonal insertion protocols give rise to d-f reticular architectures exploiting macrocyclic tetradentate cobalt complexation and peripheral carbonitrile-gadolinium coordination, respectively. Furthermore, lanthanides may afford metalation of adsorbed free-base tetrapyrrole species and can be engaged for interfacial synthesis of sandwich compounds, thus providing prospects for columnar design of coordination architectures. Finally, direct manipulation experiments achieved lateral displacement of single supramolecules and molecular rotation of sandwich or other molecular units. These findings evidence prospects for advancing molecular machinery components.The presented accomplishements herald further advancements in metallo-supramolecular design on surfaces, with versatile nanosystems and architectures emanating from the flexible coordination spheres. The embedding and systematic rationalization of lanthanide centers in tailored interfacial environments are keys to establishing relations between structure and physicochemical characteristics toward the generation of novel functionalities with technological significance.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)365-375
Number of pages11
JournalAccounts of Chemical Research
Issue number2
StatePublished - 20 Feb 2018


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