Simulation Meets Experiment: Unraveling the Properties of Water in Metal-Organic Frameworks Through Vibrational Spectroscopy
In nanoporous materials, guest–host interactions affect the properties and function of both adsorbent and adsorbate molecules. Due to their structural and chemical diversity, metal-organic frameworks (MOFs), a common class of nanoporous materials, have been shown to be able to efficiently and, often, selectively adsorb various types of guest molecules. In this study, we characterize the structure and dynamics of water confined in ZIF-90. Through the integration of experimental and computational infrared (IR) spectroscopy, we probe the structure of heavy water (D2O) adsorbed in the pores, disentangling the fundamental framework–water and water–water interactions. The experimental IR spectrum of D2O in ZIF-90 displays a blue-shifted OD-stretch band compared to liquid D2O. The analysis of the IR spectra simulated at both classical and quantum levels indicates that the D2O molecules preferentially interact with the carbonyl groups of the framework and highlights the importance of including nuclear quantum effects and taking into account Fermi resonances for a correct interpretation of the OD-stretch band in terms of the underlying hydrogen-bonding motifs. Through a systematic comparison with the experimental spectra, we demonstrate that computational spectroscopy can be used to gain quantitative, molecular-level insights into framework–water interactions that determine the water adsorption capacity of MOFs as well as the spatial arrangements of the water molecules inside the MOF pores which, in turn, are key to the design of MOF-based materials for water harvesting.