Unraveling the thermodynamic criteria for size-dependent spontaneous phase separation in soft porous crystals

S.M.J. Rogge, M. Waroquier, V. Van Speybroeck
Nature Communications
10, 4842


Soft porous crystals (SPCs) harbor a great potential as functional nanoporous materials owing to their stimuli-induced and tuneable morphing between different crystalline phases. These large-amplitude phase transitions are often assumed to occur cooperatively throughout the whole material, which thereby retains its perfect crystalline order. Here, we disprove this paradigm through mesoscale first-principles based molecular dynamics simulations, demonstrating that morphological transitions do induce spatial disorder under the form of interfacial defects and give rise to yet unidentified phase coexistence within a given sample. We hypothesize that this phase coexistence can be stabilized by carefully tuning the experimental control variables through, e.g., temperature or pressure quenching. The observed spatial disorder helps to rationalize yet elusive phenomena in SPCs, such as the impact of crystal downsizing on their flexible nature, thereby identifying the crystal size as a crucial design parameter for stimuli-responsive devices based on SPC nanoparticles and thin films.

Gold Open Access