Large-Scale Molecular Dynamics Simulations Reveal New Insights Into the Phase Transition Mechanisms in MIL-53(Al)

S. Vandenhaute, S.M.J. Rogge, V. Van Speybroeck
Frontiers in Chemistry
9: 699


Soft porous crystals have the ability to undergo large structural transformations upon exposure to external stimuli while maintaining their long-range structural order, and the size of the crystal plays an important role in this flexible behavior. Computational modeling has the potential to unravel mechanistic details of these phase transitions, provided that the models are representative for experimental crystal sizes and allow for spatially disordered phenomena to occur. Here, we take a major step forward and enable simulations of metal-organic frameworks containing more than a million atoms. This is achieved by exploiting the massive parallelism of state-of-the-art GPUs using the OpenMM software package, for which we developed a new pressure control algorithm that allows for fully anisotropic unit cell fluctuations. As a proof of concept, we study the transition mechanism in MIL-53(Al) under various external pressures. In the lower pressure regime, a layer-by-layer mechanism is observed, while at higher pressures, the transition is initiated at discrete nucleation points and temporarily induces various domains in both the open and closed pore phases. The presented workflow opens the possibility to deduce transition mechanism diagrams for soft porous crystals in terms of the crystal size and the strength of the external stimulus.

Gold Open Access