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Flat-histogram Monte Carlo Simulation of Water Adsorption in Metal-organic Frameworks



Daniel Siderius, Harold Hatch, Vincent K. Shen


Molecular simulations of water adsorption in porous materials often converge slowly due to sampling bottlenecks that follow from hydrogen bonding and, in many cases, the formation of water clusters. These effects may be exacerbated in metal-organic framework (MOF) adsorbents, due to the presence of pore spaces (cages) that promote the formation of discrete-size clusters and hydrophobic effects (if present), among other reasons. In Grand Canonical Monte Carlo (MC) simulations, these sampling challenges are typically manifested by low MC acceptance ratios, a tendency for the simulation to become stuck in a particular loading state (i.e., \it macrostates}), and the persistence of specific clusters for long periods of the simulation. We present simulation strategies to address these sampling challenges, by applying flat-histogram MC (FHMC) methods and specialized MC move types to simulations of water adsorption. FHMC, in both Transition-matrix and Wang-Landau forms, drives the simulation to sample relevant macrostates by incorporating weights that are self-consistently adjusted throughout the simulation and generates the macrostate probability distribution (MPD). Specialized MC moves, based on aggregation-volume bias and configurational bias methods, separately address low acceptance ratios for basic MC trial moves and specifically target water molecules in clusters; in turn, the specialized MC moves improve the efficiency of generating new configurations which is ultimately reflected in improved statistics collected by FHMC. The combined strategies are applied to study the adsorption of water in CuBTC and ZIF-8 at 300K, through examination of the MPD and the adsorption isotherm generated by histogram reweighting. A key result is the appearance of non-trivial oscillations in the MPD, which we show to be associated with water clusters in the adsorption system. Additionally, we show that the probabilities of certain clusters become similar in value near the boundaries of the isotherm hysteresis loop, indicating a strong connection between cluster formation/destruction and the thermodynamic limits of stability. For a hydrophobic MOF, the FHMC results show that the phase transition from low density to high density is suppressed to water pressure far above the bulk-fluid saturation pressure; this is consistent with results presented elsewhere. We also compare our FHMC simulation isotherm to one measured by a different technique but with ostensibly the same molecular interactions and comment on observed differences and the need for follow-up work. The simulation strategies presented here can be applied to the simulation of water in other MOFs using heuristic guidelines laid out in our text, which should facilitate the more consistent and efficient simulation of water adsorption in porous materials in future applications.
Journal of Physical Chemistry B


adsorption, molecular simulation, metal-organic framework, water, cluster


Siderius, D. , Hatch, H. and Shen, V. (2024), Flat-histogram Monte Carlo Simulation of Water Adsorption in Metal-organic Frameworks, Journal of Physical Chemistry B, [online],, (Accessed June 17, 2024)


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Created April 27, 2024, Updated May 17, 2024