Early stages of phase selection in MOF formation observed in molecular Monte Carlo simulations

Stephen A. Wells*, Naomi F. Cessford, Nigel A. Seaton, Tina Düren

*Corresponding author for this work

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Metal-organic frameworks (MOF) comprising metal nodes bridged by organic linkers show great promise because of their guest-specific gas sorption, separation, drug-delivery, and catalytic properties. The selection of metal node, organic linker, and synthesis conditions in principle offers engineered control over both structure and function. For MOFs to realise their potential and to become more than just promising materials, a degree of predictability in the synthesis and a better understanding of the self-assembly or initial growth processes is of paramount importance. Using cobalt succinate, a MOF that exhibits a variety of phases depending on synthesis temperature and ligand to metal ratio, as proof of concept, we present a molecular Monte Carlo approach that allows us to simulate the early stage of MOF assembly. We introduce a new Contact Cluster Monte Carlo (CCMC) algorithm which uses a system of overlapping "virtual sites" to represent the coordination environment of the cobalt and both metal-metal and metal-ligand associations. Our simulations capture the experimentally observed synthesis phase distinction in cobalt succinate at 348 K. To the best of our knowledge this is the first case in which the formation of different MOF phases as a function of composition is captured by unbiased molecular simulations. The CCMC algorithm is equally applicable to any system in which short-range attractive interactions are a dominant feature, including hydrogen-bonding networks, metal-ligand coordination networks, or the assembly of particles with "sticky" patches, such as colloidal systems or the formation of protein complexes.

Original languageEnglish
Article number14382
Pages (from-to)14382-14390
Number of pages9
JournalRSC Advances
Issue number25
Publication statusPublished - 8 May 2019


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