Adaptive Response of a Metal–organic Framework Through Reversible Disorder–disorder Transitions

A highly porous metal-organic framework (DUT-8(Ni), DUT = Dresden University of Technology) is found to adopt a configurationally-degenerate family of disordered states that respond adaptively to specific guest stimuli. This disorder originates from non-linear carboxylate linkers arranging paddlewheels in closed loops of different local symmetries that in turn propagate as tilings of characteristic complex superstructures. Solvent exchange stimulates the formation of distinct disordered superstructures for specific guest molecules. Electron diffraction by desolvated DUT-8(Ni) nanoparticles demonstrates these superstructures to persist on the nanodomain level. Remarkably, guest exchange stimulates reversible and repeatable switching transitions between distinct disorder states. Deuterium NMR spectroscopy and in situ PXRD studies identify the transformation mechanism as an adaptive singular transformation event.