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High-rate nanofluidic energy absorption in porous zeolitic frameworks


Optimal mechanical impact absorbers are reusable and exhibit high specific energy absorption. The forced intrusion of liquid water in hydrophobic nanoporous materials, such as zeolitic imidazolate frameworks (ZIFs), presents an attractive pathway to engineer such systems. However, to harness their full potential, it is crucial to understand the underlying water intrusion and extrusion mechanisms under realistic, high-rate deformation conditions. Here, we report a critical increase of the energy absorption capacity of confined water-ZIF systems at elevated strain rates. Starting from ZIF-8 as proof-of-concept, we demonstrate that this attractive rate dependence is generally applicable to cage-type ZIFs but disappears for channel-containing zeolites. Molecular simulations reveal that this phenomenon originates from the intrinsic nanosecond timescale needed for critical-sized water clusters to nucleate inside the nanocages, expediting water transport through the framework. Harnessing this fundamental understanding, design rules are formulated to construct effective, tailorable and reusable impact energy absorbers for challenging new applications.

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Fig. 1: Experimental setup.
Fig. 2: Water intrusion and extrusion of ZIF-8 at low-rate, medium-rate and high-rate loading conditions.
Fig. 3: Simulated water distribution in ZIF-8 and its effect on gate opening.
Fig. 4: Determining the intrinsic timescale for water mobility in the ZIF-8 nanocages by non-equilibrium MD simulations.
Fig. 5: Generalization of the design rules.
Fig. 6: Water intrusion and extrusion of channel-containing zeolites at different conditions.

Data availability

Source data for the main paper figures are provided with this paper. Additional experimental data generated during the current study are available from the authors upon request. Relevant configurations for the optimizations and MD simulations are available through Zenodo77. Additional computational data supporting the results of this work are available from the online GitHub repository at or upon request from the authors.

Code availability

The Yaff software used to perform the MD simulations in this paper is freely accessible via Representative input and processing scripts are available at


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Y.S. and J.-C.T. thank the K.C. Wong Fellowship (Y.S.) and the European Research Council (ERC) Consolidator grant (under the grant agreement no. 771575 PROMOFS (J.-C.T.)) for funding the research. Y.S. also thanks the University of Birmingham for startup funds. S.M.J.R., A.L., S.V. and J.W. thank the Fund for Scientific Research Flanders (FWO, grant nos. 12T3519N (S.M.J.R.), 11D2220N (A.L.), 11U1914N (S.V.) and 1103618 N (J.W.)) and the Research Board of Ghent University (BOF). Funding was also received from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Programme (ERC Consolidator grant agreement no. 647755—DYNPOR (2015–2020) (V.V.S.)). We thank the Research Complex at Harwell for access to the materials characterization facilities and T. Johnson at Johnson–Matthey Technology Centre for providing the chabazite material. The computational resources (Stevin Supercomputer Infrastructure) and services used in this work were provided by the VSC (Flemish Supercomputer Centre), funded by Ghent University, the FWO and the Flemish Government—department EWI.

Author information




Y.S. conceived and performed all experiments, with guidance from C.R.S. and J.-C.T. S.M.J.R. performed the force-field-based MD simulations. A.L. performed the ab initio and umbrella sampling MD simulations. S.V. performed the GCMC and canonical Monte Carlo simulations. J.W. derived the ZIF-8 covalent force field, all under the guidance of V.V.S. Y.S., S.M.J.R., J.-C.T. and V.V.S wrote the paper with contributions from all authors.

Corresponding authors

Correspondence to Yueting Sun, Sven M. J. Rogge, Veronique Van Speybroeck or Jin-Chong Tan.

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Peer review information Nature Materials thanks Len Barbour, Joern Ilja Siepmann and Dan Zhao for their contribution to the peer review of this work.

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Supplementary Information

Supplementary Discussion, Figs. 1–93, Tables 1–8 and References 1–97.

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Source data for Fig. 3c.

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Source data for Fig. 4b and d.

Source Data Fig. 5

Source data for Fig. 5a–e.

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Sun, Y., Rogge, S.M.J., Lamaire, A. et al. High-rate nanofluidic energy absorption in porous zeolitic frameworks. Nat. Mater. 20, 1015–1023 (2021).

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