Exploring the Effects of Node Topology, Connectivity, and Metal Identity on the Binding of Nerve Agents and Their Hydrolysis Products in Metal-Organic Frameworks

Matthew L. Mendonca, Debmalya Ray, Christopher J. Cramer, Randall Q. Snurr

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Recent studies have shown that metal-organic frameworks (MOFs) built from hexanuclear M(IV) oxide cluster nodes are effective catalysts for nerve agent hydrolysis, where the properties of the active sites on the nodes can strongly influence the reaction energetics. The connectivity and metal identity of these M6 nodes can be easily tuned, offering extensive opportunities for computational screening to predict promising new materials. Thus, we used density functional theory (DFT) to examine the effects of node topology, connectivity, and metal identity on the binding energies of multiple nerve agents and their corresponding hydrolysis products. By computing an optimization metric based on the relative binding strengths of key hydrolysis reaction species (water, agent, and bidentate-bound products), we predicted optimal M6 nodes for hydrolyzing specific nerve agent and simulant molecules, where our results are in qualitative agreement with observed experimental trends. This analysis highlighted the notion that no single metal or node topology is optimal for all possible organophosphates, suggesting that MOFs should be selected based on the agent of interest. Using the large amount of data generated from our DFT calculations, we then derived quantitative structure-Activity relationship (QSAR) models to help explain the complex trends observed in the binding energies. Through linear regression, we identified the most important descriptors for describing the binding of nerve agents and their hydrolysis products to M6 nodes. These results suggested that both molecular and node properties, including both structural and chemical features, collectively contribute to the binding energetics. By performing a thorough statistical analysis, we showed that our QSAR models are capable of making quantitatively accurate binding energy predictions for nerve agents and their hydrolysis products in a wide variety of M(IV)-MOFs. The insights gained herein can be used to guide future experiments for the synthesis of MOFs with enhanced catalytic activity for organophosphate hydrolysis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)35657-35675
Number of pages19
JournalACS Applied Materials and Interfaces
Issue number31
StatePublished - Aug 5 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
M.L.M. would like to thank the Quest High Performance Computing Cluster at Northwestern University for providing computational resources. The authors acknowledge the Minnesota Supercomputing Institute at the University of Minnesota for providing additional computational resources. This research was conducted with Government support under and awarded by DoD, Air Force Office of Scientific Research, National Defense Science and Engineering Graduate (NDSEG) Fellowship, 32 CFR 168a to M.L.M. C.J.C. acknowledges support from the Nanoporous Materials Genome Center, funded by the U.S. DOE, Office of Basic Energy Sciences, Division of Chemical Sciences, Geosciences, and Biosciences (award DE-FG02-17ER16362).

Publisher Copyright:
Copyright © 2020 American Chemical Society.


  • chemical warfare agent
  • hydrolysis
  • metal-organic framework
  • nerve agent binding
  • quantitative structure-Activity relationship


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