Anomaly in the chain length dependence of n-alkane diffusion in ZIF-4 metal-organic frameworks

Seungtaik Hwang, Arun Gopalan, Maximilian Hovestadt, Frank Piepenbreier, Christian Chmelik, Martin Hartmann, Randall Q. Snurr, Jörg Kärger*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Molecular diffusion is commonly found to slow down with increasing molecular size. Deviations from this pattern occur in some host materials with pore sizes approaching the diameters of the guest molecules. A variety of theoretical models have been suggested to explain deviations from this pattern, but robust experimental data are scarcely available. Here, we present such data, obtained by monitoring the chain length dependence of the uptake of n-alkanes in the zeolitic imidazolate framework ZIF-4. A monotonic decrease in diffusivity from ethane to n-butane was observed, followed by an increase for n-pentane, and another decrease for n-hexane. This observation was confirmed by uptake measurements with n-butane/n-pentane mixtures, which yield faster uptake of n-pentane. Further evidence is provided by the observation of overshooting effects, i.e., by transient n-pentane concentrations exceeding the (eventually attained) equilibrium value. Accompanying grand canonical Monte Carlo simulations reveal, for the larger n-alkanes, significant differences between the adsorbed and gas phase molecular configurations, indicating strong confinement effects within ZIF-4, which, with increasing chain length, may be expected to give rise to configurational shifts facilitating molecular propagation at particular chain lengths.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number668
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2018


  • Commensurate/incommensurate adsorption
  • GCMC simulation
  • N-alkanes
  • Transport diffusivity
  • ZIF-4

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Analytical Chemistry
  • Chemistry (miscellaneous)
  • Molecular Medicine
  • Pharmaceutical Science
  • Drug Discovery
  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry
  • Organic Chemistry


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