Understanding the effect of host flexibility on the adsorption of CH4, CO2 and SF6 in porous organic cages

Siyuan Yang, Linjiang Chen*, Daniel Holden, Ruiyao Wang, Yuanyuan Cheng, Mona Wells, Andrew I. Cooper, Lifeng DIng

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Molecular simulations for gas adsorption in microporous materials with flexible host structures is challenging and, hence, relatively rare. To date, most gas adsorption simulations have been carried out using the grand-canonical Monte Carlo (GCMC) method, which fundamentally does not allow the structural flexibility of the host to be accounted for. As a result, GCMC simulations preclude investigation into the effect of host flexibility on gas adsorption. On the other hand, approaches such as molecular dynamics (MD) that simulate the dynamic evolution of a system almost always require a fixed number of particles in the simulation box. Here we use a hybrid GCMC/MD scheme to include host flexibility in gas adsorption simulations. We study the adsorption of three gases - CH4, CO2 and SF6 - in the crystal of a porous organic cage (POC) molecule, CC3-R, whose structural flexibility is known by experiment to play an important role in adsorption of large guest molecules [L. Chen, P. S. Reiss, S. Y. Chong, D. Holden, K. E. Jelfs, T. Hasell, M. A. Little, A. Kewley, M. E. Briggs, A. Stephenson, K. Mark Thomas, J. A. Armstrong, J. Bell, J. Busto, R. Noel, J. Liu, D. M. Strachan, P. K. Thallapally, A. I. Cooper, Separation of rare gases and chiral molecules by selective binding in porous organic cages. Nat. Mater. 2014, 13, 954, D. Holden, S. Y. Chong, L. Chen, K. E. Jelfs, T. Hasell, A. I. Cooper, Understanding static, dynamic and cooperative porosity in molecular materials. Chem. Sci. 2016, 7, 4875]. The results suggest that hybrid GCMC/MD simulations can reproduce experimental adsorption results, without the need to adjust the host-guest interactions in an ad hoc way. Negligible errors in adsorption capacity and isosteric heat are observed with the rigid-host assumption for small gas molecules such as CH4 and CO2 in CC3-R, but the adsorption capacity of the larger SF6 molecule in CC3-R is hugely underestimated if flexibility is ignored. By contrast, hybrid GCMC/MD adsorption simulations of SF6 in CC3-R can accurately reproduce experiment. This work also provides a molecular level understanding of the cooperative adsorption mechanism of SF6 in the CC3-R molecular crystal.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)547-555
Number of pages9
JournalZeitschrift fur Kristallographie - Crystalline Materials
Issue number7-8
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2019


  • gas adsorption
  • molecular simulation
  • organic molecular crystals
  • porous organic cages

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