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Hierarchical Metal–Organic Framework Hybrids: Perturbation-Assisted Nanofusion Synthesis

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Accounts of Chemical Research
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Metal–organic frameworks (MOFs) represent a new family of microporous materials; however, microporous–mesoporous hierarchical MOF materials have been less investigated because of the lack of simple, reliable methods to introduce mesopores to the crystalline microporous particles. State-of-the-art MOF hierarchical materials have been prepared by ligand extension methods or by using a template, resulting in intrinsic mesopores of longer ligands or replicated pores from template agents, respectively. However, mesoporous MOF materials obtained through ligand extension often collapse in the absence of guest molecules, which dramatically reduces the size of the pore aperture. Although the template-directed strategy allows for the preparation of hierarchical materials with larger mesopores, the latter requires a template removal step, which may result in the collapse of the implemented mesopores. Recently, a general template-free synthesis of hierarchical microporous crystalline frameworks, such as MOFs and Prussian blue analogues (PBAs), has been reported. This new method is based on the kinetically controlled precipitation (perturbation), with simultaneous condensation and redissolution of polymorphic nanocrystallites in the mother liquor. This method further eliminates the use of extended organic ligands and the micropores do not collapse upon removal of trapped guest solvent molecules, thus yielding hierarchical MOF materials with intriguing porosity in the gram scale. The hierarchical MOF materials prepared in this way exhibited exceptional properties when tested for the adsorption of large organic dyes over their corresponding microporous frameworks, due to the enhanced pore accessibility and electrolyte diffusion within the mesopores.

As for PBAs, the pore size distribution of these materials can be tailored by changing the metals substituting Fe cations in the PB lattice. For these, the textural mesopores increased from approximately 10 nm for Cu analogue (mesoCuHCF), to 16 nm in Co substituted compound (mesoCoHCF), and to as large as 30 nm for the Ni derivative (mesoNiHCF). While bulk PB and analogues have a higher capacitance than hierarchical analogues for Na-batteries, the increased accessibility to the microporous channels of PBAs allow for faster intercalated ion exchange and diffusion than in bulk PBA crystals. Thus, hierarchical PBAs are promising candidates for electrodes in future electrochemical energy storage devices with faster charge–discharge rates than batteries, namely pseudocapacitors. Finally, this new synthetic method opens the possibility to prepare hierarchical materials having bimodal distribution of mesopores, and to tailor the structural properties of MOFs for different applications, including contrasting agents for MRI, and drug delivery.