Flexibility of zeolitic imidazolate framework structures studied by neutron total scattering and the reverse Monte Carlo method
E O R Beake, M T Dove, A E Phillips, D A Keen, M G Tucker, A L Goodwin, T D Bennett, and A K Cheetham
J Phys Cond Matt 25, 395403 (2013)

The zeolitic imidazolate framework ZIF-4 undergoes an amorphization transition at about 600 K, and then transforms at about 700 K to ZIF-zni, the densest of the crystalline ZIFs. This series of long-range structural rearrangements must give a corresponding series of changes in the local structure, but these have not previously been directly investigated. Through analysis of neutron total diffraction data by reverse Monte Carlo modelling, we assess the changes in flexibility across this series, identifying the key modes of flexibility within ZIF-4 and the amorphous phase. We show that the ZnN4 tetrahedra remain relatively rigid, albeit less so than SiO4 tetrahedra in silicates. However, the extra degrees of freedom afforded by the imidazolate ligand, compared to silicate networks, vary substantially between phases, with a twisting motion out of the plane of the ligand being particularly important in the amorphous phase. Our results further demonstrate the feasibility of reverse Monte Carlo simulations for studying intermolecular interactions in solids, even in cases, such as the ZIFs, where the pair distribution function is dominated by intramolecular peaks.

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