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Secondary building units as the turning point in the development of the reticular chemistry of MOFs


The secondary building unit (SBU) approach was a turning point in the discovery of permanently porous metal-organic frameworks (MOFs) and in launching the field of reticular chemistry. In contrast to the single-metal nodes known in coordination networks, the polynuclear nature of SBUs allows these structures to serve as rigid, directional, and stable building units in the design of robust crystalline materials with predetermined structures and properties. This concept has also enabled the development of MOFs with ultra-high porosity and structural complexity. The architectural, mechanical, and chemical stability of MOFs imparted by their SBUs also gives rise to unique framework chemistry. All of this chemistry -including ligand, linker, metal exchange, and metallation reactions, as well as precisely controlled formation of ordered vacancies- is carried out with full retention of the MOF structure, crystallinity, and porosity. The unique chemical nature of SBUs makes MOFs useful in many applications including gas and vapor adsorption, separation processes, and SBU-mediated catalysis. In essence, the SBU approach realizes a long-standing dream of scientists by bringing molecular chemistry (both organic and inorganic) to extended solid-state structures. This contribution highlights the importance of the SBUs in the development of MOFs and points to the tremendous potential still to be harnessed.

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