Exceptionally low shear modulus in a prototypical imidazole-based metal-organic framework

Phys Rev Lett. 2012 Mar 2;108(9):095502. doi: 10.1103/PhysRevLett.108.095502. Epub 2012 Feb 29.


Using Brillouin scattering, we measured the single-crystal elastic constants (C(ij)'s) of a prototypical metal-organic framework (MOF): zeolitic imidazolate framework (ZIF)-8 [Zn(2-methylimidazolate)(2)], which adopts a zeolitic sodalite topology and exhibits large porosity. Its C(ij)'s under ambient conditions are (in GPa) C(11)=9.522(7), C(12)=6.865(14), and C(44)=0.967(4). Tensorial analysis of the C(ij)'s reveals the complete picture of the anisotropic elasticity in cubic ZIF-8. We show that ZIF-8 has a remarkably low shear modulus G(min) < or approximately 1 GPa, which is the lowest yet reported for a single-crystalline extended solid. Using ab initio calculations, we demonstrate that ZIF-8's C(ij)'s can be reliably predicted, and its elastic deformation mechanism is linked to the pliant ZnN(4) tetrahedra. Our results shed new light on the role of elastic constants in establishing the structural stability of MOF materials and thus their suitability for practical applications.