Origin of highly active metal–organic framework catalysts: defects? Defects!

J. Canivet, M. Vandichel, D. Farrusseng
Dalton Transactions
45, 4090-4099


This article provides a comprehensive review of the nature of catalytic sites in MOFs. In the last decade, a number of striking studies have reported outstanding catalytic activities of MOFs. In all cases, the authors were intrigued as it was unexpected from the ideal structure. We demonstrate here that (surface) defects are at the origin of the catalytic activities for the reported examples. The vacancy of ligands or linkers systematically generates (surface) terminations which can possibly show Lewis and/or Brønsted acido-basic features. The engineering of catalytic sites at the nodes by the creation of defects (on purpose) appears today as a rational approach for the design of active MOFs. Similarly to zeolite post-treatments, post-modifications of MOFs by linker or metal cation exchange appear to be methods of choice. Despite the mild acidity of defective MOFs, we can account for very active MOFs in a number of catalytic applications which show higher performances than zeolites or benchmark catalysts.

Open Access version available at UGent repository