A major challenge in materials science is the ongoing search for coupling agents that are readily synthesized, capable of versatile chemistry, able to easily functionalize materials and surfaces, and efficient in covalently linking organic and inorganic entities. A decade ago, we began a research program investigating perfluorophenylazides (PFPA) as the coupling agents in surface functionalization and nanomaterial synthesis. The p-substituted PFPAs are attractive heterobifunctional coupling agents because of their two distinct and synthetically distinguishable reactive centers: (i) the fluorinated phenylazide, which is capable of forming stable covalent adducts, and (ii) the functional group R, which can be tailored through synthesis. Two approaches have been undertaken for material synthesis and surface functionalization. The first method involves synthesizing PFPA bearing the first molecule or material with a functional linker R and then attaching the resulting PFPA to the second material by activating the azido group. In the second approach, the material surface is first functionalized with PFPA via functional center R, and coupling of the second molecule or material is achieved with the surface azido groups. In this Account, we review the design and protocols of the two approaches, providing examples in which PFPA derivatives were successfully used in material surface functionalization, ligand conjugation, and the synthesis of hybrid nanomaterials. The methods developed have proved to be general and versatile, and they are applicable to a wide range of materials (especially those that lack reactive functional groups or are difficult to derivatize) and to various substrates of polymers, oxides, carbon materials, and metal films. The coupling chemistry can be initiated by light, heat, and electrons. Patterned structures can be generated by selectively activating the areas of interest. Furthermore, the process is easy to perform, and light activation occurs in minutes, greatly facilitating the efficiency of the reaction. PFPAs indeed demonstrate many benefits as versatile surface coupling agents and offer opportunities for further exploration.
2010. Vol. 43, no 11, 1434-1443 p.