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Assessing Composite Structure in Metal-Organic Framework-Polymer Mixed-Matrix Membranes



Avery Baumann, Peter Beaucage, Richard Vallery, David Gidley, Ryan Nieuwendaal, Chad R. Snyder, Jan Ilavsky, Fu Chen, Christopher Stafford, Christopher Soles


Metal-organic frameworks (MOFs) are renowned for their tunable structure, porosity, and internal chemistry with demonstrated applications in molecular separations, storage, and conversion. While they are widely usable, the powdery characteristics of MOF materials can be limiting for large-scale processing and implementation in devices. Incorporating MOF particles into polymer supports affords engineering solutions to overcome these issues, yet the nature of the resulting composites is difficult to assess. In this work, we present spectroscopic and calorimetric methods that we believe help establish a holistic physicochemical picture of the composite structure using a series of Zr MOFs with different pore sizes as a testbed. Power law decays are observed in X-ray scattering profiles in low q-space ranging between 2.4 to 3.3, which we interpret as changes in scattering due to polymer infiltrating MOF particles. This interpretation is supported by solid-state nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy and differential scanning calorimetry measurements that identify populations of MOF-associated polymer. Additionally, positron annihilation lifetime spectroscopy measurements collected on a series of composites with different MOF-polymer ratios show multiple decay constants each correlated to a different free volume element. In combination with the spectroscopic, calorimetric and scattering results, we utilize the trends in decay constants as a function of polymer mass fraction to hypothesize a polymer infiltration mechanism whereby large pores are preferentially filled, followed by small pores and, later still, interstitial spaces between particles. Even with vigorous investigation of polymer, MOF, and interface characteristics, the complex and heterogeneous nature of the composites makes absolute structural assertions difficult. We envision the approaches demonstrated here will be a useful foundation to assess and ultimately guide the design of future MOF-polymer composites.
Chemistry of Materials


Metal-organic framework, polymer, composite, X-ray scattering, spectroscopy


Baumann, A. , Beaucage, P. , Vallery, R. , Gidley, D. , Nieuwendaal, R. , Snyder, C. , Ilavsky, J. , Chen, F. , Stafford, C. and Soles, C. (2024), Assessing Composite Structure in Metal-Organic Framework-Polymer Mixed-Matrix Membranes, Chemistry of Materials, [online],, (Accessed April 15, 2024)
Created March 15, 2024