A more robust mechanistic understanding of iminelinked two-dimensional covalent organic frameworks (2D COFs) is needed to improve their crystalline domain sizes and to control their morphology, both of which are necessary to fully realize their application potential. Here, we present evidence that 2D iminelinked COFs rapidly polymerize as crystalline sheets that subsequently reorganize to form stacked structures. Primarily, this study focuses on the first few minutes of 1,3,5-tris(4- aminophenyl)benzene and terephthaldehyde polymerization, which yields an imine-linked 2D COF. In situ X-ray diffraction and thorough characterization of solids obtained using gentler isolation and activation methods than have typically been used in the literature indicate that periodic imine-linked 2D structures form within 60 s, which then form more ordered stacked structures over the course of several hours. This stacking process imparts improved stability toward the isolation process relative to that of the early stage materials, which likely obfuscated previous mechanistic conclusions regarding 2D polymerization that were based on products isolated using harsh activation methods. This revised mechanistic picture has useful implications; the 2D COF layers isolated at very short reaction times are easily exfoliated, as observed in this work using high-resolution transmission electron microscopy and atomic force microscopy. These results suggest improved control of imine-linked 2D COF formation can be obtained through manipulation of the polymerization conditions and interlayer interactions. Qualitatively similar results were obtained for analogous materials obtained from 2,5-di(alkoxy)- terephthaldehyde derivatives, except for the COF with the longest alkoxy chains examined (OC12H25), which, although shown by in situ X-ray diffraction to be highly crystalline in the reaction mixture, is much less crystalline when isolated than the other COFs examined, likely due to the more severe steric impact of the dodecyloxy functionality on the stacking process.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Colloid and Surface Chemistry