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Hemilabile and Switchable Metal-Organic Frameworks

Hemilabile and Switchable Metal-Organic Frameworks

We are meeting the challenge of keeping the UK at the forefront of novel materials development.

Project leader

Prof Mark Thomas


March 2013 to February 2016




University of St Andrews


Our project team have expertise spanning synthesis, characterisation and adsorption of porous materials. The project will develop and generalise two new concepts in metal-organic framework (MOF) chemistry. The team have published these concepts in Nature Chemistry.

We will provide a step change in the properties of MOFs, including stability of the materials. This will enable new types of chemistry not currently possible. We will generalise the preliminary concepts to maximise their impact in both the academic and commercial worlds.

The novelty of this work also covers advanced characterisation techniques, including:

  • X-ray pair distribution function analysis
  • in situ X-ray diffraction and combined adsorption/neutron diffraction

We will use these techniques to probe the structure and properties of the materials.

Metal-organic frameworks (MOFs) are some of the most exciting materials to have been prepared in the last decade or so. The chemistry of these solids has great versatility. They have many interesting and useful attributes, including:

  • ultra-high porosity
  • extreme flexibility
  • post synthetic modification

The solids have many potential uses. These range from gas storage, separation and delivery, catalysis, and sensing all the way to biology and medicine.

The UK has great strength in these areas. We have expertise in developing highly porous materials and in hydrogen storage. We have a deep understanding of chiral and bio-inspired MOFs. We are skilled in post-synthetic modification and computational aspects. We are at the leading edge of crystal growth. The UK has several excellent synthetic/materials groups. But international competition is increasing in this rapidly growing area.

EPSRC recognise the importance of developing the synthesis itself as a route to useful attributes. It is a Grand Challenge in the EPSRC-funded network Directed Assembly of Extended Structures with Targeted Properties. The national importance of this area is implicit in its designation as a Grand Challenge.

As the field moves on, there is a great focus on developing both the fundamental and applied aspects of MOFs.