The Crystalline Sponge Method in Water

The crystalline sponge method entails the elucidation of the (absolute) structure of molecules from a solution phase using single-crystal X-ray diffraction and eliminates the need for crystals of the target compound. An important limitation for the application of the crystalline sponge method is the instability of the available crystalline sponges that can act as host crystals. The host crystal that is most often used decomposes in protic or nucleophilic solvents or when guest molecules with Lewis basic substituents are introduced. Here we disclose a new class of (water) stable host crystals based on f-block metals. We show that these hosts not only increase the scope of the crystalline sponge method to a wider array of solvents and guests, but that they can even be applied to aqueous solutions containing hydrophilic guest molecules, thereby extending the crystalline sponge method to the important field of water-based chemistry.