Unravelling surface and interfacial structures of a metal–organic framework by transmission electron microscopy

Yihan Zhu, Jim Ciston, Bin Zheng, Xiaohe Miao, Cory Czarnik, Yichang Pan, Rachid Sougrat, Zhiping Lai, Chia-En Hsiung, Kexin Yao, Ingo Pinnau, Ming Pan, Yu Han

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

293 Scopus citations


Metal–organic frameworks (MOFs) are crystalline porous materials with designable topology, porosity and functionality, having promising applications in gas storage and separation, ion conduction and catalysis1, 2, 3. It is challenging to observe MOFs with transmission electron microscopy (TEM) due to the extreme instability of MOFs upon electron beam irradiation4, 5, 6, 7. Here, we use a direct-detection electron-counting camera to acquire TEM images of the MOF ZIF-8 with an ultralow dose of 4.1 electrons per square ångström to retain the structural integrity. The obtained image involves structural information transferred up to 2.1 Å, allowing the resolution of individual atomic columns of Zn and organic linkers in the framework. Furthermore, TEM reveals important local structural features of ZIF-8 crystals that cannot be identified by diffraction techniques, including armchair-type surface terminations and coherent interfaces between assembled crystals. These observations allow us to understand how ZIF-8 crystals self-assemble and the subsequent influence of interfacial cavities on mass transport of guest molecules.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)532-536
Number of pages5
JournalNature Materials
Issue number5
StatePublished - Feb 20 2017

Bibliographical note

KAUST Repository Item: Exported on 2020-10-01
Acknowledged KAUST grant number(s): FCC/1/1972-19, URF/1/2570-01-01
Acknowledgements: This research was supported by competitive research funds (FCC/1/1972-19 and URF/1/2570-01-01) to Y.H. from King Abdullah University of Science and Technology. Work at the Molecular Foundry was supported by the Office of Science, Office of Basic Energy Sciences, of the US Department of Energy under Contract No. DE-AC02-05CH11231. Additional support for B.Z. was provided by the NSF of China (Grant 21503165). We thank C. T. Koch from Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin and C. Ophus from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory for helpful discussions.


Dive into the research topics of 'Unravelling surface and interfacial structures of a metal–organic framework by transmission electron microscopy'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this