General Background

General Background

Metal oxides are ubiquitous in modern technologies ranging from large-scale industrial catalysis to microelectronics, but the emerging area of Molecular Nanoscience (MN), i.e. the study of advanced functional materials and nanometric systems based on molecular components, has involved mainly organic molecules and/or metal complexes. A key goal in the development of MN is therefore the incorporation of metal oxide components. In this regard, polyoxometalates (POMs) are archetypal molecular metal oxides and their uniquely diverse structural, electronic, magnetic and chemical properties provide a versatile platform for inorganic Molecular Nanoscience (MN) that has hardly been exploited.

Encompassing some of the most exciting challenges facing modern chemists and materials scientists, POM-based MN is a truly interdisciplinary field in which areas such as supramolecular chemistry, molecular electronics and molecular magnetism converge. Technologies arising from this research will have major societal impact and shape future economies in areas relevant to international Grand Challenges such as alternative energy conversion and storage, water purification, CO2 conversion and molecular electronics. POM-based MN will allow the design, synthesis and full characterization of metal oxide components with specific properties prior to their incorporation into functional nanosystems, providing a wider diversity of materials and higher chemical precision than nanoscience that relies purely upon the manipulation of particle size, morphology and dimensionality of elements or simple compounds. For example, (i) the inorganic nature of POMs (lack of carbon-based components) makes them ideal candidates for catalysts under harsh conditions such as water oxidation, (ii) their unique electronic structures can be exploited for molecular electronics and spintronics with functionalities that potentially reach beyond the paradigms of von-Neumann architectures and binary logics, and (iii) self-assembly into molecule-based analogues of solid-state oxides produces complex architectures that can host numerous additional functional components and provide ‘soft’ routes to active oxide systems. Translating these key advantages into real-world applications requires joint large-scale efforts from the diverse specialist groups that will be organized in this Action.

European groups are at the forefront of POM chemistry and this strength provides a world-leading European capability for POM-based MN that could impact on science, industry and society. However, POM research is increasingly complex and requires an increasingly interdisciplinary approach with access to facilities and skills that exceed the capabilities of individual groups. Consequently, without the consolidation of European POM knowledge and expertise, European influence will decline along with any scientific advantage over the USA, Japan and China at a time when ever-more applications for POMs are emerging. To date, there has been no coordinated effort to integrate the European POM community and no other COST Action with a similar scientific scope.

COST is the only scheme to provide funding for a network of this type that will coordinate nationally-funded POM research projects and provide the mobility necessary to share expertise and facilities and stimulate new, ground-breaking collaborative research based on established strengths. Given the successful COST format for large network operation, this Action will create an efficient structure for managing a programme of meetings, workshops, schools and exchanges that would be difficult, if not impossible, to coordinate under any of the other research Frameworks. Another important aspect of COST is the open nature of Actions, which greatly enhances the chances of identifying new research synergies.

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POMs papers via @scifanz Pedro Molina