Photochemistry and photobiological implications of functionlazied fullerenes in aqueous systems
Snow, Samuel D.
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Fullerenes have been the focus of significant research effort and curiosity for their unique physicochemical and photochemical properties since their discovery almost 30 years ago. C60 fullerene in particular has received tremendous attention, due to its prevalence in fullerene production and chemical stability. While ambitious prospective applications for C60 have been ubiquitous, the extremely hydrophobic nature of fullerenes and consequent aggregation at the nano scale has hampered many endeavors. Researchers, therefore, have turned their attention to the functionalization of fullerenes to add hydrophilic moieties for applications in aqueous media. It is known that functionalizing the C60 cage alters its innate physicochemical and photochemical properties, but how these changes translate to the properties of C60 aggregates, often termed nC60, is not well understood. Functionalized fullerenes present an intriguing environmental dichotomy. On the one hand C60 has excellent potential as a novel singlet oxygen producing disinfection tool, and on the other the potential toxicological effects of functionalized C60 are largely unknown. With thousands of possible functionalities, a mechanistic understanding of the effects of functionalization is essential. To explore the effects of functionalization on fullerene photochemistry in relevant systems, three types of functional groups were selected and obtained each in series of mono-, bis-, and tris-functionalized forms. Two functionalities contrasted the presence or lack of a quaternary ammonium group and the third was the sterically bulkier phenyl-C61 butyic acid methylester, which is commonly used in polymer photovoltaics. The fullerenes were characterized for innate photochemical properties in organic solvents using UV/Vis, laser flash photolysis, and photochemical degradation experiments. Aqueous aggregates of each derivative were additionally characterized for their physical and chemical properties by dynamic light scattering, transmission electron microscopy, energy dispersive x-ray spectroscopy, and x-ray photoelectron spectroscopy. All derivatives were photoactive when dispersed molecularly in organic solvents, but only the cationic fullerenes showed significant photoactivity as aqueous aggregates. Differences in aggregate size or crystallinity were unable to explain the differential photoactivity between derivatives, contrary to two established hypotheses. Antimicrobial properties were probed using innate toxicity tests and photoinactivation experiments. Again, only the cationic fullerenes were found to exert photochemical action towards Escherichia coli or MS2 bacteriophages. The cationic fullerenes were also innately toxic to E. coli due to the presence of quaternary ammonium moieties. In order to establish a mechanistic understanding of the photochemistry of functionalized C60 aggregates, simulations of the molecular dynamics (MD) were employed and compared with empirical evidences. Simulations provided theoretical values for C60-O2, C60-C60, and C60-H2O interactions for each derivative. Trends observed in the MD results were compared to photochemical characterizations as described above and Raman spectroscopic measurements of C60’s effect on localized water structure. High resolution transmission electron microscopy was used to provide empirical evidence of the C60-C60 interactions. Overall, fullerene aggregate photochemistry is likely driven by aggregate morphology and by intermolecular interactions between fullerenes, water, and O2.