• Pak Yan Moh

Student thesis: Phd


The crystal growth of nanoporous materials is different from most other classes of material in that their framework architectures contain periodic arrangement of pores or voids in which there is no direct bonding between adjacent units of the framework. This poses a variety of questions as to how such parts of framework develop during the crystallization process, atomistically and energetically. Here we use the nanoporous metal-organic framework, ZIF-8 as a prototypical material to obtain a basic understanding of the growth of a nanoporous material. The crystals of ZIF-8 produced in the N,N-dimethylformamide solvent [ZIF-8(DMF)] and methanol-co-N,N-dimethylformamide solvent [ZIF-8(MeOH)] are both rhombic dodecahedron in shape with a much smaller crystal size in the latter. In the study of the kinetics of ZIF-8(DMF) crystallization, we get a good agreement in the values of activation energies using both Avrami-Erofe'ev-Hancock-Sharp and Gualtieri's models, i.e. about 120 kJ mol-1 for nucleation, and 95 kJ mol-1 for crystal growth process. The study of kinetics of ZIF-8 surface growth, by in situ AFM, with ZIF-8(DMF) as seed crystal that are grown in the methanolic growth solution we see faster rate in the directions than the directions, with the most probable activation energy of about 80 kJ mol-1 in both directions. This is the first example of in situ AFM being used to obtain activation energy for a surface growth in MOF. We also reveal here that growth process of ZIF-8 occurs through the nucleation and spreading of successive metastable unenclosed sub-steps to eventually form stable terrace steps of the enclosed framework structure in which this process is reliant on the presence of nonframework species to connect the framework species that have voids between them. The experiments also enable identification of some of the fundamental units in the growth process and the stable crystal surface plane. Further, the spreading of terraces at high supersaturation condition (early state) is fairly isotropic as is seen through the formation of almost-rounded terraces on the surface of ZIF-8. The growth direction becomes clear as the supersaturation condition nears to equilibrium (later stage) by the formation of rhombohedral terraces with pointy ends growing along the , and directions and straight edges growing perpendicular to the direction. Formation of this rhombohedral morphology is explained by a coarse grain approach similar to that used in the Kossel model by making assumptions that the sodalite cage is the growth unit and attachment of one sodalite cage in each growth direction is the rate determining step for the formation of a new row of sodalite cages in each direction. Finally, based on the profiles of growth spirals formed from screw dislocations on the ZIF-8 surface obtained from the ex situ AFM images and ICE theory, plausible screw dislocations with Burgers' vector of 1/2 and , but not , are deduced. Some of the findings in this work will be applicable to numerous nanoporous materials, and the work in general will support efforts to synthesize and design new framework materials and to control the crystal properties of these materials.
Date of Award1 Aug 2012
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorMichael Anderson (Supervisor) & Martin Attfield (Supervisor)


  • MOFs, ZIF-8, growth kinetics, crystal morphology, crystal growth,
  • growth mechanism, AFM

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