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Growing and Shaping Metal–Organic Framework Single Crystals at the Millimeter Scale

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posted on 28.04.2020, 15:44 by Alessandro Sorrenti, Lewis Jones, Semih Sevim, Xiaobao Cao, Andrew J. deMello, Carlos Martí-Gastaldo, Josep Puigmartí-Luis
Controlling and understanding the mechanisms that harness crystallization processes is of utmost importance in contemporary materials science and, in particular, in the realm of reticular solids where it still remains a great challenge. In this work, we show that environments mimicking microgravity conditions can harness the size and shape of functional biogenic crystals such as peptide-based metal–organic frameworks (MOFs). In particular, we demonstrate formation of the largest single crystals with controlled nonequilibrium shapes of peptide-based MOFs reported to date (e.g., those featuring curved crystal habits), as opposed to the typical polyhedral microcrystals obtained under bulk crystallization conditions. Such unique nonequilibrium morphologies arise from the interplay between the diffusion-controlled supply of precursors in simulated microgravity environments and the physical constraints imposed during crystal growth. In fact, our method mimics two main strategies of morphogenesis in biomineralization, i.e., spatial and morphological control, both being largely unexplored in the field of self-assembled functional materials. The presented results may open new opportunities to study and understand fundamental questions of relevance to materials science, such as how the size and shape of artificial crystals can influence their properties and functions while providing a strategy to tailor the size and shape of peptide-based MOF single crystals to specific applications.