The Dincă Lab is focused on addressing research challenges related to the storage and consumption of energy and global environmental concerns. Central to our efforts is the synthesis of novel organic-inorganic hybrid materials and the manipulation of their electrochemical and photophysical properties, with a current emphasis on microporous materials.
Inorganic and organic synthesis, as well as rigorous physical characterization are the cornerstones of our research. Students and post-doctoral researchers will gain synthetic skills spanning inorganic (Schlenk & Glove Box techniques), solid state, solvothermal, and organic chemistry (for ligand synthesis). We employ a range of characterization techniques: single-crystal and powder X-ray diffraction, gas-sorption analysis, electrochemistry, thermogravimetry and various spectroscopic techniques: NMR, UV-Vis, IR, EPR, etc. These allow us to delineate important structure-function relationships that guide us in the design of new materials with predesigned physical properties.
Synthesis and Characterization of Electronically and Ionically Conductive MOFs and COFs
The development of safe and reliable electrical energy storage (EES) devices is instrumental for the large scale collection and distribution of clean energy from intermittent power sources such as solar and wind. A promising class of materials that can solve these challenges is metal-organic frameworks. These are crystalline solids with highly tunable structures that exhibit high surface areas and large internal volumes but generally lack electronic conductivity. We aim to develop general methods for the synthesis of electrically and/or ionically conductive crystalline microporous materials, with the ultimate goal of providing a new class of microporous electrodes for general use in EES devices such as Li-ion batteries and supercapacitors, in resistive sensing devices, or in ion selective membranes.
Small Molecule Activation and Catalytic Applications of Metal-Organic Frameworks
Similar to zeolites, metal-organic frameworks could function as veritable solid-state scaffolds for a variety of small molecule transformations relevant to chemical feedstocks and energy conversion. We aim to synthesize new ligands and materials that will take advantage of the inherently rigid nature of MOFs and introduce redox-active metal centers with particularly unusual and reactive coordination spheres. These could serve as efficient catalysts for a series of transformations of industrial importance.
Photophysical and Magnetic Properties of Ordered Microporous Materials
Owing to their highly crystalline nature, metal-organic frameworks (MOFS) and covalent-organic frameworks (COFs) can function as perfect scaffolds for controlling the collective properties of electronically non-trivial organic molecules or metal clusters. We aim to exploit the unique structural features of MOFs and COFs to obtain molecular constructs that exhibit collective electronic properties that are otherwise difficult to engineer in molecular solids. We are particularly interested in using topological principles to control the aggregation sequence of molecular chromophores, with potential applications in solar energy conversion, light harvesting constructs, and microporous magnets.
Metal-Organic Frameworks on Surfaces: Towards Membranes for Gas Separation
Current synthetic methods do not allow precise control over the morphology of the resulting microporous metal-organic frameworks. This prevents the use of these promising materials in practical settings. We are devising new methods that will afford the synthesis and deposition of MOF thin films, membranes, and nanoparticles on various substrates. We also aim to develop soft, solution methods that would enable facile patterning of various solid-state materials on the underlying surface, which is very challenging using current strategies. Possible applications include the synthesis of continuous membranes for gas separations, which are some of the most energy-intensive processes in industry.
The Coordination Scope and Electronic Properties of High-Nuclearity Metal Nodes
Molecular multinuclear inorganic clusters exhibit unusual photophysical, magnetic, and catalytic properties when compared to low nuclearity or mononuclear organometallic complexes. In principle, the incorporation of multinuclear clusters in ordered microporous arrays should afford multifunctional materials whose properties combine those of molecular clusters with those of the bulk solids. We aim to develop new ligands that will afford highly connected metal-organic frameworks whose synthesis has been very challenging and serendipitous thus far. We are interested in exploring the unique electronic properties of such materials, with potential applications in catalysis and luminescent materials.