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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/R015481/1
Title: Designing Chemistry and Morphology in Metal-Organic Framework Gels, Liquids and Glasses
Principal Investigator: Bennett, Dr TD
Other Investigators:
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
CNRS Group Corning Incorporated (International)
Department: Materials Science & Metallurgy
Organisation: University of Cambridge
Scheme: First Grant - Revised 2009
Starts: 12 March 2018 Ends: 11 March 2019 Value (£): 95,895
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Materials Characterisation Materials Synthesis & Growth
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
Related Grants:
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
25 Oct 2017 EPSRC Physical Sciences - October 2017 Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form
Metal-organic frameworks (MOFs) are three-dimensional structures composed of inorganic nodes, connected by organic linkers. The ease at which different elements or functionalities can be incorporated into a plethora of nanoscopic architectures has led to the population of an enormous class of compounds. Over 60,000 crystalline structures have been reported, which can be 'tuned' to exhibit exceptional selectivity for pre-determined target guest molecules. Two products, from companies span out of Northwestern and Queen's University Belfast, have been commercialised, in the areas of toxic gas storage and fruit packaging. Furthermore, huge societal and economic benefits from their use in highly selective CO2 capture, drug delivery, chemical sensing, toxic gas separations and harmful waste storage applications have been proposed, though not delivered. This is partly due to the gap between the significant strides made in chemical synthesis, and a dearth of work on their physical properties.

It is therefore highly surprising that even the most basic of all physical properties, the state of matter, represents one of the most under-researched areas in the MOF field. This proposal hence aims at addressing this bias towards the ordered, crystalline solid domain, which is vital given the research invested into the field and the potential benefits from the combination of the mechanical stability of the amorphous domain, with the chemical opportunities afforded by MOFs.

The recent discovery of the glass-forming ability of the MOF family offers the tantalising prospect of accurately designing functional glasses by first tuning the chemical properties of the parent crystalline framework, prior to subsequent melting and liquid quenching. The transfer of functionality from crystal to glass in this manner will enable the next generation of a plethora of functional glasses to be produced. Such materials will lie at the forefront of efforts to move MOFs away from the current focus on the crystalline porous state.

Two new classes of functional MOF-glasses will be produced in the course of the project; (i) porous MOF-glasses for separations and (ii) chiral MOF glasses for advanced optical applications. With respect to the former, the development of porous MOF-glasses or MOF-glass composite membranes for gas separations would prove a significant advancement in the field, given the current mixed matrix membranes suffer from chemical compatibility problems and a reduction in active component. In addition, reactions between MOFs in the liquid phase will be studied, and the structure and properties of the resultant multicomponent glasses produced investigated.

The 'soft' nature of MOFs also leads to the structural collapse of some frameworks during the post-processing processes (e.g. sintering, ball-milling, pelletisation) used to convert nano-crystalline powders to industrially useable morphologies. The development of a variety of morphologies (i.e. thin films, beads, and self-supporting, binder-free membranes from microcrystalline powders is therefore absolutely essential for the field to move forwards to application.

Concentrating on both fundamentally expanding our basic understanding of the field and at the same time bridging the gap between basic science and industrial relevance, this project is highly interdisciplinary in nature. The overarching aims of this proposal are thus to; (i) create new porous and chiral MOF-glasses (ii) create new composite materials for separation by combining crystalline MOFs and their glassy counterparts, (iii) produce a binary phase diagram for the reaction of two MOF liquids and analyse the products formed and (iv) cross-link unstable MOF spheres produced in previous work by the group, and extend the methodology to another MOF family.

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Organisation Website: http://www.cam.ac.uk