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Size-Selective Urea-Containing Metal–Organic Frameworks as Receptors for Anions

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journal contribution
posted on 29.10.2020, 19:16 authored by Leili Esrafili, Ali Morsali, Mao-Lin Hu, Alireza Azhdari Tehrani, Lucia Carlucci, Pierluigi Mercandelli, Davide M. Proserpio
Anion recognition by neutral hosts that function in aqueous solution is an emerging area of interest in supramolecular chemistry. The design of neutral architectures for anion recognition still remains a challenge. Among neutral anion receptor systems, urea and its derivatives are considered as “privileged groups” in supramolecular anion recognition, since they have two proximate polarized N–H bonds exploitable for anion recognition. Despite promising advancements in urea-based structures, the strong hydrogen bond drives detrimental self-association. Therefore, immobilizing urea fragments onto the rigid structures of a metal–organic framework (MOF) would prevent this self-association and promote hydrogen-bond-accepting substrate recognition. With this aim, we have synthesized two new urea-containing metal–organic frameworks, namely [Zn­(bpdc)­(L2)]n·nDMF (TMU-67) and [Zn2(bdc)2(L2)2]n·2nDMF (TMU-68) (bpdc = biphenyl-4,4′-dicarboxylate; bdc = terephthalate; L2 = 1,3-bis­(pyridin-4-yl)­urea), and we have assessed their recognition ability toward different anions in water. The two MOFs show good water stability and anion affinity, with a particular selectivity toward dihydrogen arsenate for TMU-67 and toward fluoride for TMU-68. Crystal structure characterizations reveal 3-fold and 2-fold interpenetrated 3D networks for TMU-67 and TMU-68, respectively, where all single interpenetrated networks are hydrogen bonded to each other in both cases. Despite the absence of self-quenching, the N–H urea bonds are tightly hydrogen bonded to the oxygen atoms of the dicarboxylate ligands and cannot be directly involved in the recognition process. The good performance in anion sensing and selectivity of the two MOFs can be ascribed to the network interpenetration that, shaping the void, creates monodimensional channels, decorated by exposed oxygen atom sites selective for arsenate sensing in TMU-67 and isolated cavities, covered by phenyl groups selective for fluoride recognition in TMU-68.

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