A Robust, Porous and Solution-Processable Molecular Crystal Containing Multiple Donor-Acceptor Units

We report a curious porous molecular crystal that is devoid of the common traits of related systems. Namely, the molecule does not rely on directional hydrogen bonds to enforce open packing; and it offers neither large concave faces (i.e., high internal free volume) to frustrate close packing, nor any inherently built-in cavity like in the class of organic cages. Instead, the permanent porosity (as unveiled by the X-ray crystal structure and CO2 sorption studies) arises from the strong push-pull units built into a Sierpinski-like molecule that features four symmetrically backfolded (SBF) side arms. Each side arm consists of the 1,1,4,4-tetracyanobuta-1,3-diene acceptor (TCBD) coupled with the dimethylaminophenyl donor, which is conveniently installed by a cycloaddition-retroelectrocyclization (CA-RE) reaction. Unlike the poor/fragile crystalline order of many porous molecular solids, the molecule here readily crystallizes and the crystalline phase can be easily deposited into thin films from solutions. Moreover, both the bulk sample and thin film exhibit excellent thermal stability with the porous crystalline order maintained even at 200 °C. The intermolecular forces underlying this robust porous molecular crystal likely include the strong dipole interactions and the multiple C···N and C···O short contacts afforded by the strongly donating and accepting groups integrated within the rigid molecular scaffold.