Origins of Acid-Gas Stability Behavior in Zeolitic Imidazolate Frameworks: The Unique High Stability of ZIF-71

K Cui and S Bhattacharyya and S Nair and JR Schmidt, JOURNAL OF THE AMERICAN CHEMICAL SOCIETY, 143, 18061-18072 (2021).

DOI: 10.1021/jacs.1c06321

Zeolitic imidazolate frameworks (ZIFs) are promising materials for industrial process separations, but recent literature reports have highlighted their vulnerability to acid gases (e.g., SO2, CO2, NO2, H2S), often present in practical applications. While previous work has documented the widely varying stability behavior of many ZIFs under varying (humid and dry) acid gas environments, efforts to explain or correlate these experimental observations via empirical descriptors have not succeeded. A key observation is that ZIF-71 (RHO topology) is an extraordinarily stable ZIF material, retaining both structure and porosity under prolonged humid SO2 exposure whereas many other well- known ZIFs with different linkers and topologies (such as ZIF-8) were shown to degrade. Through a combination of hybrid quantum mechanics/molecular mechanics (QM/MM) based methods and statistical mechanical models, we successfully explain this important experimental observation via atomistic investigations of the reaction mechanism. Our holistic approach reveals an similar to 9 times lower average defect formation rate in ZIF-71 RHO compared to ZIF-8 SOD, leading to the conclusion that the observed experimental stability of this material rises from kinetic effects. Moreover, our analysis reveals that differing stability of the two materials is determined by the distributions of acid gas molecules, which is difficult to capture using empirical descriptors. Our results suggest wider applicability of the present approach, toward identifying tuned functional groups and topologies that move the acid gas distributions away from more reactive sites and thus allow enhanced kinetic stability.

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