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Time-Resolved In Situ Liquid-Phase Atomic Force Microscopy and Infrared Nanospectroscopy during the Formation of Metal-Organic Framework Thin Films

Mandemaker, LDB., Filez, M., Delen, G., Tan, H., Zhang, X., Lohse, D., Weckhuysen, BM.
J Phys Chem Lett


Metal-organic framework (MOF) thin films show unmatched promise as smart membranes and photocatalytic coatings. However, their nucleation and growth resulting from intricate molecular assembly processes are not well understood yet are crucial to control the thin film properties. Here, we directly observe the nucleation and growth behavior of HKUST-1 thin films by real-time in situ AFM at different temperatures in a Cu-BTC solution. In combination with ex situ infrared (nano)spectroscopy, synthesis at 25 °C reveals initial nucleation of rapidly growing HKUST-1 islands surrounded by a continuously nucleating but slowly growing HKUST-1 carpet. Monitoring at 13 and 50 °C shows the strong impact of temperature on thin film formation, resulting in (partial) nucleation and growth inhibition. The nucleation and growth mechanisms as well as their kinetics provide insights to aid in future rational design of MOF thin films.

DOI: 10.1021/acs.jpclett.8b00203