In this thesis, I have used computational methods to the study of flexibility in metal-organic frameworks (MOFs) and the behavior of adsorbed gases and liquids in MOFs. Among nanoporous materials, MOFs are of particular interest for adsorption-based applications for reasons that include (1) their huge chemical space, which raises the possibility of tuning them for specific industrial processes and (2) the ability of the under-coordinated metals present in some MOFs to endow their respective materials with impressive adsorbate binding energies.
Chapters 2 and 4 relate to analogs of a series of MOFs with under-coordinated metals (the M-MOF-74 series). In Chapter 2, I report the discovery of a novel argon adsorbate-induced deformation pattern for this framework series. This result was arrived at using a flexible framework model, and is presented as an explanation for an intriguing signal observed in experimental small-angle X-ray scattering profiles upon argon adsorption. This hypothesis is supported by a complementary investigation of an alternative explanation for the X-ray signal, in which argon atoms are proposed to adsorb at different densities in adjacent pores.
In Chapter 3, I studied the dynamics of adsorbed xylene isomers in MOF-5. I compare the translational and rotational motion of the xylene isomers, and explain the differences based on molecular geometries. The most rod-like molecule, para-xylene, is more rotationally constricted in the pore due to its intermolecular interactions with the aromatic group of the MOF linker. This finding has implications for the rational design of MOFs, as a process that can take advantage of the MOF-induced variations in xylene isomer dynamics could be used for lucrative liquid-phase xylene separations.
In Chapter 4, I present a method for parameterizing the type of flexible framework model used in Chapter 2 from ab initio quantum chemistry calculations. The goal of this work is to facilitate the rapid development of flexible, versatile MOF models that can capture changes in the coordination bonding of metals in MOFs. This type of model can be used to study structural transitions and may be extended to study MOF formation. We demonstrated that our approach yields models for the M-MOF-74 series that are stable and have simulated structural properties in good agreement with quantum chemistry calculations.