The concept of mixed organic ligands in metal–organic frameworks: design, tuning and functions
The research on metal–organic frameworks (MOFs) has been developing at an extraordinary pace in its two decades of existence, as judged by the exponential growth of novel structures and the constant expansion of its applicability and research scope. A major part of the research and its success are due to the vital role of the concept of mixed organic ligands in the design, tuning and functions. This perspective, therefore, reviews the recent advances in MOFs based on this concept, which is generally based on employing a small polydentate ligand (here labelled as “nodal ligand”) to form either clusters, rods or layers, which are then connected by a second ditopic linker ligand to form the framework. The structures of the materials can be grouped into the following three categories: layer-spacer (usually known as pillared-layer), rod-spacer, and cluster-spacer based MOFs. Depending on the size and geometry of the spacer ligands, interpenetrations of frameworks are occasionally found. These MOFs show a wide range of properties such as (a) crystal-to-crystal transformations upon solvent modifications, post-synthetic metal exchange or ligand reactions, (b) gas sorption, solvent selectivity and purification, (c) specific catalysis, (d) optical properties including colour change, luminescence, non-linear optic, (e) short- and long range magnetic ordering, metamagnetism and reversible ground-state modifications and (f) drug and iodine carriers with controlled release. In the following, we will highlight the importance of the above concept in the design, tuning, and functions of a selection of existing MOFs having mixed organic ligands and their associated structures and properties. The results obtained so far using this concept look very promising for fine-tuning the pore size and shape for selective adsorption and specificity in catalytic reactions, which appears to be one way to propel the advances in the application and commercialization of MOFs.