JACS (Journal of the American Chemical Society)
The stability of metal-organic frameworks (MOFs) typically decreases with an increasing number of defects, limiting the number of defects that can be created and limiting catalytic and other applications. Herein, we use a hemilabile (Hl) linker to create up to maximum 6 defects per cluster in UiO-66. We have synthesized hemilabile UiO-66 (Hl-UiO-66) using benzene dicarboxylate (BDC) as linker and 4-sulfonatobenzoate (PSBA) as the hemilabile linker. The PSBA acts not only as a modulator to create defects, but also as a co-ligand that enhances the stability of the resulting defective framework. Furthermore, upon a post-synthetic treatment in H2SO4, the average number of defects increases to the optimum of six missing BDC linkers per cluster (3 per formula unit), leaving the Zr-nodes on average 6-fold coordinated. Remarkably, the thermal stability of the materials further increases upon this treatment. Periodic density functional theory calculations confirm that the hemilabile ligands strengthen this highly defective structure by several stabilizing interactions. Finally, the catalytic activity of the obtained materials is evaluated in the acid-catalyzed isomerization of α-pinene oxide. This reaction is particularly sensitive to the Brønsted or Lewis acid sites in the catalyst. In comparison to the pristine UiO-66, which mainly possesses Brønsted acid sites, the Hl-UiO-66 and the post-synthetically treated Hl-UiO-66 structures exhibited a higher Lewis acidity and an enhanced activity and selectivity. This is further explored by CD3CN spectroscopic sorption experiments. We have shown that by tuning the number of defects in UiO-66 using PSBA as the hemilabile linker, one can achieve highly defective and stable MOFs and easily control the Brønsted to Lewis acid ratio in the materials, and thus their catalytic activity and selectivity.