Strategic Molecule Design for Developing Sensors and Electron Transfer Catalysts

Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Dr. Sherine O. Obare

Second Advisor

Dr. Ekkehard Sinn

Third Advisor

Dr. Yirong Mo

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Masood Atashbar


Multi-electron transfer, CO2 reduction, molecular activation, electrochemical sensor, pesticide detection, nanoparticle synthesis


Despite recent discoveries and technological progress in science, there remains a need to identify molecules and materials that drive high energy reactions. Of urgent need is the development of materials that mimic biological enzymes but have the robustness to withstand harsh environmental conditions. Molecular and nanoscale materials are of great interest due to their tunable properties to address modern-day environmental challenges. We have developed synthetic procedures that produce gram-scale, well-defined and materials, including monodisperse nanoparticles with controlled size and shape. The materials and the nanoparticles were characterized using spectroscopic, microscopic, electrochemical and x-ray techniques. The work conducted in this dissertation describes the design, synthesis and characterization of novel molecular and nanoscale materials that are not only robust but can be tuned to selectively store and transfer electrons as needed. The novelty of the designed materials is their ability to overcome high energy reaction barriers at ambient conditions. Such reactivity was accomplished by designing the materials to mediate reactions driven via multielectron transfer pathways. The reactions are significant for the remediation of toxic environmental pollutants including organohalides, organophosphorus pesticides, carbon dioxide and the splitting of water. Furthermore, materials have been developed to detect toxic organophosphorus pesticides and distinguish between them, allowing significant tools for the environmental and agricultural industries. The results are paramount toward understanding and developing advanced materials for catalysis and sensing applications.

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