Synthesis of functional phosphine chalcogenides for polymerizable cobalt chalcogenide clusters
Brycelyn M. Boardman, assistant professors of chemistry and biochemistry at James Madison University, and her students are working to build materials that capture a lot of sunlight, specifically cobalt chalcogenide clusters with functionalized thienyl phosphine ligands. They hope to make quantum dots (fantastically tiny bits of matter) by combining cobalt, an element famous since ancient times for producing blue colors, with various chalcogens, a group of elements in the oxygen family. Thienyl phosphine is used as a chemical handle to link the quantum dots together through a process which chemists call “polymerization.” What is unusual about this research is that Boardman is bridging the gap between organic (carbon-based) and inorganic chemistry to produce never-before-seen hybrid materials that may one day have a serious impact on our ability to produce electricity directly from sunlight. “Undergraduate researchers are involved in all aspects of synthesis and characterization,” Boardman said. “Students stand to gain a wide variety of organic and inorganic synthetic skills and will also characterize the materials with instrumentation that is otherwise sparingly used in the undergraduate experience.” Successfully developing these new materials would provide valuable fundamental knowledge about the relationship between molecular structure and function, a key element in the development of new photovoltaic devices.