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Soft Matter Encompassing Fibrous Gels Coexisting with Metal - Organic Framework (MOF) Nanoparticles

Soft Matter Encompassing Fibrous Gels Coexisting with Metal-Organic Framework (MOF) Nanoparticles [2015]



In our recent Advanced Materials paper, we reported the discovery of a brand new family of gel-like smart materials exhibiting counterintuitive physical and chemical properties. These supramolecular gels are in fact hybrid materials constructed from the process of self-assembly, starting from metal and organic components. Scrutinising the resultant hybrid gels under the scanning electron microscope, we were astounded to see exquisite fine-scale fibre architectures, which are completely different from those known in any other contemporary gel materials. Intertwined amongst these microscopic fibres are numerous MOF nanoparticles (ca. 100 nm) that have been created in situ. The MOF nanoparticles can be easily harvested and used as a precursor to fabricate thin-film sensing devices (see Figure). Noteworthy, this newly discovered family of hybrid gels is highly tuneable, enabling us to engineer bespoke materials with the desired properties to fit a specific application. To illustrate this, we have demonstrated that by simply switching the types of solvent used in material synthesis, we can tailor its electrical conduction property and mechanical resilience of such hybrid systems. Our methodology has opened the doors for exploiting MOF-based supramolecular gels as a new 3-D scaffolding material useful for engineering bespoke optoelectronics and smart micro-mechanical devices.