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Keywords:

  • structure envelopes;
  • metal–organic frameworks (MOFs);
  • structure solution;
  • powder diffraction;
  • charge flipping

The synthesis of polycrystalline, as opposed to single-crystalline, porous materials, such as zeolites and metal–organic frameworks (MOFs), is usually beneficial because the former have shorter synthesis times and higher yields. However, the structural determination of these materials using powder X-ray diffraction (PXRD) data is usually complicated. Recently, several methods for the structural investigation of zeolite polycrystalline materials have been developed, taking advantage of the structural characteristics of zeolites. Nevertheless, these techniques have rarely been applied in the structure determination of a MOF even though, with the electron-density contrast between the metal-containing units and pore regions, the construction of a structure envelope, the surface between high- and low-electron-density regions, should be straightforward for a MOF. Herein an example of such structure solution of MOFs based on PXRD data is presented. To start, a Patterson map was generated from powder diffraction intensities. From this map, structure factor phases for several of the strongest reflections were extracted and a structure envelope (SE) of a MOF was subsequently constructed. This envelope, together with all extracted reflection intensities, was used as input to the SUPERFLIP software and a charge-flipping (CF) structure solution was performed. This structure solution method has been tested on the PXRD data of both activated (solvent removed from the pores; dmin = 0.78 Å) and as-synthesized (dmin = 1.20 Å) samples of HKUST-1. In both cases, our method has led to structure solutions. In fact, charge-flipping calculations using SE provided correct solutions in minutes (6 min for activated and 3 min for as-synthesized samples), while regular charge flipping or charge flipping with histogram matching calculation provided meaningful solutions only after several hours. To confirm the applicability of structure envelopes to low-symmetry MOFs, the structure of monoclinic PCN-200 has been solved via CF+SE calculations.