Nat Commun. 2023 Aug 26;14(1):5223. doi: 10.1038/s41467-023-40973-9.
Functionalizing porous materials with capping agents generates hybrid materials with enhanced properties, while the challenge is how to improve the selectivity and maintain the porosity of the parent framework. Herein, we developed a “Cage-on-MOF” strategy to tune the recognition and catalytic properties of MOFs without impairing their porosity. Two types of porous coordination cages (PCCs) of opposite charges containing secondary binding groups were developed to coordinatively functionalize two distinct porous MOFs, namely MOF@PCC nanocomposites. We demonstrated that the surface-capped PCCs can act as “modulators” to effectively tune the surface charge, stability, and adsorption behavior of different host MOF particles. More importantly, the MOF@PCCs can serve as selective heterogeneous catalysts for condensation reactions to achieve reversed product selectivity and excellent recyclability. This work sets the foundation for using molecular cages as porous surface-capping agents to functionalize and manipulate another porous material, without affecting the intrinsic properties of the parent framework.