With a view towards optimizing gas storage and separation in crystalline and disordered nanoporous carbon-based materials, we use ab initio density functional theory calculations to explore the effect of chemical functionalization on gas binding to exposed edges within model carbon nanostructures. We test the geometry, energetics, and charge distribution of in-plane and out-of-plane binding of CO2 and CH4 to model zigzag graphene nanoribbons edge-functionalized with COOH, OH, NH2, H2PO3, NO2, and CH3. Although different choices for the exchange-correlation functional lead to a spread of values for the binding energy, trends across the functional groups are largely preserved for each choice, as are the final orientations of the adsorbed gas molecules. We find binding of CO2 to exceed that of CH4 by roughly a factor of two. However, the two gases follow very similar trends with changes in the attached functional group, despite different molecular symmetries. Our results indicate that the presence of NH2, H2PO3, NO2, and COOH functional groups can significantly enhance gas binding, making the edges potentially viable binding sites in materials with high concentrations of edge carbons. To first order, in-plane binding strength correlates with the larger permanent and induced dipole moments on these groups. Implications for tailoring carbon structures for increased gas uptake and improved CO2/CH4 selectivity are discussed.

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