Proximity Effect in Crystalline Framework Materials: Stacking-Induced Functionality in MOFs and COFs

Metal-organic frameworks (MOFs) and covalent organic frameworks (COFs) consist of molecular building blocks being stitched together by strong bonds. They are well known for their porosity, large surface area, and related properties. The electronic properties of most MOFs and COFs are the superposition of those of their constituting building blocks. If crystalline, however, solid-state phenomena can be observed, such as electrical conductivity, substantial dispersion of electronic bands, broadened absorption bands, formation of excimer states, mobile charge carriers, and indirect band gaps. These effects emerge often by the proximity effect caused by the van-der-Waals interactions between stacked aromatic building blocks. This Progress Report shows how functionality is imposed by this proximity effect, that is, by stacking aromatic molecules in such a way that extraordinary electronic and optoelectronic properties emerge in MOFs and COFs. After discussing the proximity effect in graphene-related materials, its importance for layered COFs and MOFs is shown. For MOFs with well-defined structure, the stacks of aromatic building blocks can be controlled via varying MOF topology, lattice constant, and by attaching steric control units. Finally, an overview of theoretical methods to predict and analyze these effects is given, before the layer-by-layer growth technique for well-ordered surface-mounted MOFs is summarized.