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Banner caption: Rendered atomistic configuration of the first example of a melt quenched hybrid glass. Here, tetrahedral Zn2+ ions are linked by organic imidazolate ligands in a continuous random network. Image featured on the Front Cover of Nature Materials (DOI: 10.1038/NMAT4998).

Metal-organic frameworks (MOFs) are three-dimensional nanoporous materials formed of inorganic nodes connected by organic ligands. As an entirely novel class of nanoporous materials, they have attracted a lot of interest and are studied by scientists from a wide variety of horizons, due to both their intrinsic aesthetic appeal and their potential industrial applications, for example as selective adsorbents and catalysts, substrates for biosensors and drug delivery, and membranes and films in various nanotechnologies, to list but a few.

Since the development of the field in its current form more than two decades ago, priority has been placed on the synthesis of new structures. However, more recently, a clear trend has emerged in shifting the emphasis from material design to exploring the chemical and physical properties of those already known. In particular — while such nanoporous materials were traditionally seen as rigid crystalline structures — there is growing evidence that large-scale flexibility, the presence of defects and long-range disorder, are not the exception, but rather the norm, in metal-organic frameworks.

Research in the Department explores the interfaces of these three phenomena, and create gels, liquids and glasses which lie out of the ordinary concept of this class of materials. the melt-quneched glasses formed from MOFs are of particular interest given the similarity of their optical properties and structures to traditional inorganics such as silica, and their thermomechanical properties to organic polymers.

The image shows two prototypical MOF structures, the disparity in the number of crystalline and non-crystalline speices, and the relationship between flexibility, defects and disorder in the family.

Researchers working in this discipline area