Cages are macrocyclic structures with an intrinsic internal cavity that support applications in separations, sensing and catalysis. These materials can be synthesised via self-assembly of organic or metal-organic building blocks. Their bottom-up synthesis and the diversity in building block chemistry allows for fine-tuning of their shape and properties toward a target property. However, it is not straightforward to predict the outcome of self-assembly, and, thus, the structures that are practically accessible during synthesis. Indeed, such a prediction becomes more difficult as problems related to the flexibility of the building blocks or increased combinatorics lead to a higher level of complexity and increased computational costs. Molecular models, and their coarse-graining into simplified representations, may be very useful to this end. Here, we develop a minimalistic toy model of cage-like molecules to explore the stable space of different cage topologies based on a few fundamental geometric building block parameters. Our results capture, despite the simplifications of the model, known geometrical design rules in synthetic cage molecules and uncover the role of building block coordination number and preorganisation on the stability of cage topologies. This leads to a large-scale and systematic exploration of design principles, generating data that we expect could be analysed through expandable approaches toward the rational design of self-assembled porous architectures.
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