Defibrillation of soft porous metal-organic frameworks with electric fields

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Science  20 Oct 2017:
Vol. 358, Issue 6361, pp. 347-351
DOI: 10.1126/science.aal2456

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Tuning porosity with electric fields

Many metal-organic framework (MOF) compounds exhibit soft porosity—i.e., their lattices can undergo considerable deformation. Knebel et al. formed membrane layers of the MOF ZIF-8 and found that it was converted into a polar polymorph with a stiffer lattice in response to an applied electric field (see the Perspective by Gascon). This change reduced gas transport but, for certain gas mixtures such as propane and propene, also improved their separation factor.

Science, this issue p. 347; see also p. 303


Gas transport through metal-organic framework membranes (MOFs) was switched in situ by applying an external electric field (E-field). The switching of gas permeation upon E-field polarization could be explained by the structural transformation of the zeolitic imidazolate framework ZIF-8 into polymorphs with more rigid lattices. Permeation measurements under a direct-current E-field poling of 500 volts per millimeter showed reversibly controlled switching of the ZIF-8 into polar polymorphs, which was confirmed by x-ray diffraction and ab initio calculations. The stiffening of the lattice causes a reduction in gas transport through the membrane and sharpens the molecular sieving capability. Dielectric spectroscopy, polarization, and deuterium nuclear magnetic resonance studies revealed low-frequency resonances of ZIF-8 that we attribute to lattice flexibility and linker movement. Upon E-field polarization, we observed a defibrillation of the different lattice motions.

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