Brock chemistry team produces glowing molecule ‘superbase’

A chemistry research team at Brock University has invented a new type of molecule that both glows and strengthens a property commonly used in chemical processes.

Dubbed ‘Janus,’ the molecule builds on a class of molecules called the proton sponge, first discovered by UK researcher Roger Alder in 1968.

A proton sponge is a molecule that attracts and retains a proton, a particle found in the nucleus of every atom that has a positive electrical charge. A major benefit of the proton sponge is that it is a strong base. A base is an alkaline substance that, among other things, reacts with acid to form salts and promotes certain chemical reactions.

Led by Brock chemistry researcher Associate Professor Travis Dudding, the research team of graduate students Lee Belding and Peter Stoyanov sought to create the next generation of proton sponge. More than a year ago, Belding and Dudding invented a compound they called “DACN.” Stoyanov then merged a piece of DACN into a piece of the original proton sponge.

Proton sponges typically only pick up a single proton, but the molecule developed by the Brock research team is so strong that it can pick up two protons at the same time. Dudding says this new molecule is “truly a superbase,” which is fundamental to physical organic chemistry and is valuable in organic synthesis.

But the researchers made an even more interesting discovery: the new molecule is highly fluorescent.

“We can imagine so many applications of significance” for the Janus molecule, says Dudding, suggested uses in places such as TV and computer screens, LED production, patio lanterns, and florescent dyes used in biological imaging.

Dudding says an exciting aspect of the research is that it turns the theoretical into the practical.

“Proton sponges are one of these very privileged scholarly topics,” he says. “We’ve shown that they have really unique properties that are specific and that you can apply them.”

The team’s research paper – “Synthesis, Theoretical Analysis, and Experimental pKa Determination of a Fluorescent, Nonsymmetric, In?Out Proton Sponge” – is published in the ACS Journal of Organic Chemistry.

“The research of Brock chemists was well received by the scientific community since it will be made a featured article in the first issue of 2016 of the Journal of Organic Chemistry with the following cover illustration,” says Dudding.

Read more stories in: Featured, News, Research
Tagged with: ,