Defect-Engineered Metal-Organic Framework Catalysts
Metal-Organic Frameworks (MOFs) are crystalline porous materials consisting of metal clusters coordinated to organic molecules to form 3D structures that exhibit microporosity, in a similar fashion to that of zeolites. The most typical organic linkers are dicarboxylates and imidazole ligands, along with a number of different transition and alkaline metals such as Al, Co, Fe, Zn or Ni. Their catalytic activity is accepted to result from the coordinatively unsaturated sites (CUS) of the metals within the network, but it is not yet fully understood.
The project consists in proving the existence of defects in these materials by using IR, Raman and UV-microspectroscopies in combination with soft and hard X-Ray techniques to identify vacant sites, dangling bonds and structural defects present in the coordination network. Controlled introduction of those defects enhances the activity of Lewis acid-base and redox catalytic properties of the non-functionalized parent materials. By careful design and optimization, these materials will be used in the conversion of biomass derivatives such as C5 and C6 sugars to methyl lactate or levulinic acid. Finally, a comparison between defect-engineered network (DEFNET) materials and benchmark zeolites will be done, in order to prove their real potential as industrial, scalable, heterogeneous catalysts. As an example, Fischer et al  synthesized a Ru-based material, with improved activity in olefin hydrogenation.
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 - Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. 2015, 54, 7234-7254
DEFNET MarieCurie ITN Program (http://www.defnet-etn.eu/)