One of the intriguing features of certain metal-organic frameworks (MOFs) is the large volume change upon external stimuli like pressure or guest molecule adsorption, referred to as “breathing”. This displacive phase transformation from an open to a closed pore has been investigated intensively by theoretical simulations within periodic boundary conditions (PBC). However, the actual free energy barriers for the transformation under real conditions and the impact of surface effects on it can only be studied beyond PBC for nanocrystallites. In this work, we used the first-principles parameterized forcefield MOF-FF to investigate the thermal- and pressure induced transformations for nanocrystallites of the pillared-layer DMOF-1 (Zn
(dabco); bdc: 1,4-benzenedicarboxylate; dabco: 1,4-diazabicyclo[2.2.2]octane) as a model system. By heating of prepared closed pore nanocrystallites of different size, a spontaneous opening is observed within a few tenth of picoseconds with an interface between the closed and open pore phase moving with a velocity of several 100 m/s
through the system. The critical nucleation temperature for the opening transition raises with size. On the other hand, by forcing the closing transition with a distance restraint between paddle-wheel units placed on opposite edges of the crystallite, the free energy barrier can be determined by umbrella sampling. As expected, this barrier is substantially lower than the one determined for a concerted process under PBC. Interestingly, the barrier reduces with the size of the crystallite, indicating a hindering surface effect. The results demonstrate the need consider domain boundaries and surfaces, for example by simulations that go beyond PBC and to large system sizes in order to properly predict and describe first order phase transitions in MOFs.
ORCID For Submitting Author0000-0001-8735-6883
Declaration of Conflict of Interestno conflict of interest