Small and not very small organic molecules are the foundation of our civilization. They are fuels, medical drugs, solvents and in general are building blocks for industry. The beginning of 21st century was heralded by the renaissance of photochemistry and photocatalysis applied to organic synthesis. These approaches allow generating highly reactive open-shell intermediates via photoinduced electron transfer for downstream chemistry. Overall, intrinsically endergonic reactions become facile by illuminating a mixture of reagent with visible or near UV light.

At the Innovative Heterogeneous Photocatalysis, we aim not only for momentary success by demonstrating breath-taking photocatalytic reactions, but to create a truly flexible technology that will serve for many decades. In order to achieve this goal, we use semiconductor photocatalysts that are free of rare elements – graphitic carbon nitrides. We prepare graphitic carbon nitrides from bulk commodities, such as melamine and urea. Being chemically and thermally stable and insoluble in water and common organic solvents, we recover carbon nitrides from the reaction mixture and reuse.

We explore reactivity and design chemical reactions using carbon nitrides. And the scope is already very rich. Carbon nitrides are able to activate reagents via photoinduced electron transfer, proton-coupled electron transfer and energy transfer. A type of graphitic carbon nitride, poly(heptazine imide), forms a long-lived radical, which allows decoupling solar energy harvesting and storage in the form of separated charges, electrons and protons, from their use for reduction of unsaturated organic compounds. In addition, potassium poly(heptazine imide) is able to ‘distinguish’ between the photons of different wavelength (color) and enable one reaction pathway out of a multitude potentially possible, which is in the foundation of chromoselective photocatalysis.

Explore carbon nitride organic photocatalysis through a gallery above!

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