Chem Sci. 2022 Oct 3;13(41):12164-12174. doi: 10.1039/d2sc03097g. eCollection 2022 Oct 26.
Optimising catalyst materials for visible light-driven fuel production requires understanding complex and intertwined processes including light absorption and catalyst stability, as well as mass, charge, and energy transport. These phenomena can be uniquely combined (and ideally controlled) in porous host-guest systems. Towards this goal we designed model systems consisting of molecular complexes as catalysts and porphyrin metal-organic frameworks (MOFs) as light-harvesting and hosting porous matrices. Two MOF-rhenium molecule hybrids with identical building units but differing topologies (PCN-222 and PCN-224) were prepared including photosensitiser-catalyst dyad-like systems integrated via self-assembled molecular recognition. This allowed us to investigate the impact of MOF topology on solar fuel production, with PCN-222 assemblies yielding a 9-fold turnover number enhancement for solar CO2-to-CO reduction over PCN-224 hybrids as well as a 10-fold increase compared to the homogeneous catalyst-porphyrin dyad. Catalytic, spectroscopic and computational investigations identified larger pores and efficient exciton hopping as performance boosters, and further unveiled a MOF-specific, wavelength-dependent catalytic behaviour. Accordingly, CO2 reduction product selectivity is governed by selective activation of two independent, circumscribed or delocalised, energy/electron transfer channels from the porphyrin excited state to either formate-producing MOF nodes or the CO-producing molecular catalysts.